197044 Social Transmission of Weight-Related Behaviors among Adolescents

Monday, November 9, 2009: 4:30 PM

Mir Ali, PhD , Cfsan, FDA, College Park, MD
Aliaksandr Amialchuck, PhD , Economics, University of Toledo, Toledo, OH
Frank Heiland, PhD , Department of Economics and Center for Demography and Population Health, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Objective: To investigate whether social interactions in friendship networks influence weight-related behaviors of adolescents.

Methods: Using data from a nationally representative survey of adolescents we utilize multivariable regression analysis to examine the association between eight individual and peer weight-related behaviors. The behaviors examined are: exercising regularly, playing sports, hours of TV/Video viewing, six or fewer hours of sleep, eating breakfast, eating fast-food, eating five servings of fruits/vegetables, and consuming calorie-dense snacks. Controls for health endowments, preferences, and common environmental factors were included to adjust for correlated effects.

Results: Significant positive associations between peer average and individual behavior for exercise, sport, and eating fast food. A 10% increase in the fraction of friends who engage in a sport is associated with a 1.32% (p=0.000) increase in the probability of doing a sport. A 10% increase in the fraction of friends exercising increases the chance that the individual exercises by 0.68% (p=0.026). A 1-unit increase in the average number of fast food meals consumed in the friend network increases the number of fast food meals the individual consumed by 0.15 (p=0.000). Hours of TV/Video viewing, reduced sleep time, and having breakfast, five servings of fruits/vegetables and calorie-dense snacks were not found to be consistently affected by peers' engagement in such activities.

Conclusions: Evidence consistent with peer effects in exercise, sports, and consumption of fast food is provided. The social transmission of weight-related behaviors emerges as an explanation for the spread of weight gain and obesity in social networks found in recent research.

Learning Objectives:
To investigate whether social interactions in friendship networks influence weight-related behaviors of adolescents.

Keywords: Obesity, Behavioral Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a health economist with research interest in adolescent health behavior.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.