Lifespan Logo It now seems that social relationships have an impact on the weight status of an individual. Investigators from The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center suggest that overweight and obese young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years are more likely to have overweight romantic partners as well as best friends. Such people may also have more overweight casual friends and family members as compared to normal weight peers.

288 young adults in the age group of 18 to 25 years, 151 under normal weight, 137 overweight or obese individuals were analyzed during the study. It was mentioned that most of the study subjects were female and Caucasian. Volunteers were made to fill in questionnaires asking about their weight and height, number of overweight social contacts and perceived social norms for obesity along with obesity-related behaviors. The number of best friends, romantic partners, casual friends, relatives and colleagues/classmates were engulfed in the category of social contacts.

Lead author Tricia Leahey, PhD, a researcher with The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center, elucidated, “Our data suggests that obesity ‘clusters’ in this population. But interestingly, social norms for obesity did not differ between the two groups and did not account for the clustering. Both groups reported similarly low levels of social acceptability for being overweight, eating unhealthy foods and being inactive.”

Overweight and obese participants were subjected to additional questionnaires for evaluating the number of overweight social contacts who were currently trying to lose weight. Even the perceived social norms for weight loss like how frequently social contacts encouraged weight loss or whether the people closest to them would approve if they were to lose weight were taken into consideration. Scientists also kept a tab on the intentions for getting rid of excess pounds within the next three months. 25 percent overweight or obese subjects and 14 percent normal weight young adults were supposedly having an overweight romantic partner.

24 percent overweight or obese participants and 14 percent normal weight young adults reportedly had an overweight best friend. Overweight and obese young adults apparently had more contacts who were trying to lose weight. Social norms for weight loss, like encouragement and approval from social contacts seem to have an impact on the weight of a young adult. It appears that factors influencing weight status and weight control in high-risk age group can aid to develop potential and effective obesity treatment as well as prevention programs.

The study is published online by the journal Obesity.