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Forty-two Percent Of Americans Will Eventually Become Obese, Thanks To Fat Friends

November 4, 2010: 03:27 AM EST

A new study that introduces a framework for analyzing how behavioral phenomena such as obesity spread like an illness from friend to friend predicts that eventually 42 percent of Americans will be obese. The study found that the current “rate of becoming obese” – the chance of becoming obese in any given year – is two percent. Each “obese social contact” – i.e., a fat friend – increases the risk by half a percentage point. The rate of slimming down, however, is four percent a year and does not depend on the number of friends who are slim. The researchers noted that since the 1970s, the rate of losing weight has been constant, so the rise in obesity rates “may be driven by increasing rates of becoming obese,” not by decreasing rates of losing weight.

Alison L. Hill, David G. Rand, et al., "Infectious Disease Modeling of Social Contagion in Networks", PlosOne, November 04, 2010, © Creative Commons Attribution License.
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