The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years

The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years

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“The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years” Obesity is one of the most talked about health concerns of today’s society, yet 66% of adults are still overweight. While issues such as the increase of fast food restaurants and inactive Americans are commonly put to blame, we have to wonder if a bigger matter is actually at hand. Science has proven that obesity is neither genetic nor more prevalent in certain socioeconomic groups. This conundrum led Harvard researchers Robert Jones and Peter White and Allison Smith of the Framington Heart Study to conduct a study that could possibly explain the obesity epidemic from a psychological perspective. They believe that a leading factor of obesity can be explained based on people’s tendency to be influenced by the behavior and appearance of those in their own social network. If this is true, then a change in a person’s weight over time can be explained by a change in weight of their friends or family. This study does a good job of proving its theoretical hypothesis; however the information obtained could have been used to make a stronger claim. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health who have no apparent reason to be biased toward one outcome over another. It was conducted using data from the Framingham Offspring Study, which provides accurate data on patients’ height and weight, measured every four years. The researchers make the claim “that obesity may spread in social networks in a quantifiable and discernable pattern that depends on the nature of social ties.” (Jones et al.) They define an independent, dependent, and conditional variable in order to establish a causal relationship in support of this claim. The theoretical independent variable defines the cause of the hypothesis which in this case is the obesity of an alter (a person connected to the ego, or the person whose behavior is being analyzed) at a point in time. The theoretical dependent variable defines the effect, which is
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the ego’s obesity at a certain point in time. This temporal order of variables is important in
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This note was uploaded on 04/09/2008 for the course COMM 211 taught by Professor Traubaut during the Winter '08 term at University of Michigan.

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The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network Over 32 Years

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