Obesity is one of the most common medical issues amongst people in the West, and especially in America. It's estimated that over 1 in 3 people in the United States alone are obese, and this has also tied into an increase in other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
It's an issue that has many sides to it, and everyone studying it has weighed in on some of the causes and solutions to the condition. Some blame the ready availability of inexpensive, unhealthy foods, while others blame the education system for not doing enough to educate people on the importance of healthy eating and exercise. Others still simply blame it on laziness and people's inability to take care of themselves.
However, a recent study done on the matter has revealed that, as expected, there's more to it than that. As it turns out, your proximity to other people who are overweight can actually have an impact on your own weight, and you might not even realize it's happening...
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, researchers from the University of Southern California and think tank Rand Corp. delved into whether obesity could spread through "social contagion." This is a theoretical phenomenon that basically says that behaviors and beliefs, like smoking or happiness, can be spread through regular contact by people who experience them.
"The study, newly published in JAMA Pediatrics, found that both parents and kids who lived in counties with higher obesity rates were more likely to be obese or overweight. And the longer families lived in these overweight areas, the higher their own risk of weight gain. Those who lived off base were particularly vulnerable; the researchers speculated that this link could be due to more time spent within the general population. For example, living in a community where few people exercise or frequently eat fast food might have influenced a military members' behaviors."
The study also had some other fascinating data, such as the fact that friends and siblings of the same sex seemed to impact weight gain more significantly than the opposite sex, which made scientists conclude that we're more influenced by those who are like us.