Birds of a Feather ...

Study finds obese and overweight young adults tend to date, befriend other overweight peers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Overweight and obese young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 are more likely to have overweight friends, romantic partners and family members compared to normal-weight peers.

The finding arrives as part of a study from researchers at the Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center. The Researchers also found that overweight and obese young adults who reported having social contacts trying to lose weight had had more drive themselves to lose weight.

Forty percent of adults in the 18 to 25 age bracket are obese, with young adults experiencing the highest rates of weight-gain every year, about one to two pounds.

The study followed 288 young adults aged 18 to 25, most of whom were female and Caucasian. A total of 151 of the individuals were of normal weight, and 137 were considered overweight or obese with a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater.

All participants completed questionnaires regarding weight and height, number of overweight or obese social contacts and perceived social norms for obesity and obesity-related behaviors. Overweight and obese participants completed additional questionnaires that assessed intention to loose weight and other topics.

The study found that in this age bracket, obese and overweight adults tend to "cluster" as those who were overweight or obese were more likely to have an overweight romantic partner (25 percent compared to 14 percent) and an overweight best friend (24 percent compared to 14 percent).

Prior to the study, there were scant studies that looked at whether social ties influence weight status and weight-loss intent. The powerful influence of social interactions has been well documented in children and adolescents.

Lead author Tricia Leahey, PhD, said identifying factors that influence both weight status and weight control among young adults can help researchers develop effective treatments and prevention-effort programs since this population group is less likely to participate in behavioral weight-loss interventions and are less successful at these attempts than older adults.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 12, 2011
Last Updated:
January 12, 2011