Queen's University

Obesity in older adults tied to social circles: study


Older people are influenced more by the people around them – friends, family members, co-workers and classmates – than younger people when it comes to obesity levels, according to a study by Queen’s University researchers.

“The study shows the importance a person’s social networks have in supporting a physically active lifestyle and reducing the odds of obesity. Our friends influence us and our obesity levels – but it appears that relationship is stronger as we get older,” says Spencer Moore (Kinesiology and Health Studies). “The findings are important to public health officials who look at ways to improve the health levels of older adults.”

The study surveyed 2,707 people in Montreal and examined the exercise behaviours and physical inactivity of participants and three important people in their lives. While friends and family were important for the physical activity behaviour of people 18-54 years old, the association did not extend to obesity as was shown among study participants in the 55 years and older category.

Previous studies have shown that social networks influence obesity levels, but the Queen’s research is the first to find a difference among age groups and types of relationships.

The study was published in the academic journal PLOS One (Public Library of Science).

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Last updated at 4:55 pm EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
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