Breaking News
February 19, 2018 - Researchers uncover how excess calcium may influence development of Parkinson’s disease
February 19, 2018 - Psoriasis drug also effective at reducing aortic inflammation
February 19, 2018 - Excess emissions can make serious contributions to air pollution, study shows
February 19, 2018 - Diabetes Drugs Differ on HF; School-Based Obesity Program Flop; Plaque Type in ACS
February 19, 2018 - Surgical infections linked to drug-resistant bugs, study suggests
February 19, 2018 - Poor awareness may hinder a child’s early dental care
February 19, 2018 - FDA Approves Apalutamide (Erleada) to Help Curb a Tough-to-Treat Prostate Cancer
February 19, 2018 - Educational Tool Boosts Cervical Length Screening
February 19, 2018 - Spider’s web inspires removable implant that may control type 1 diabetes
February 19, 2018 - University Hospital of Santiago de Compostela participates in large pancreatic cancer study
February 19, 2018 - New blood test shows promise to revolutionize diagnosis of tick-borne diseases
February 19, 2018 - Report: Use, Not Price, Drives State Health Costs
February 19, 2018 - Emergency services crews often unprepared for diabetic crises
February 19, 2018 - Scientists in Sweden create DNA nanowires that offer hope for treatment of diseases
February 19, 2018 - ID Break: Clean Hands, Fewer Abx; $11 Million HIV Cure?; MenB Vax for Kids
February 19, 2018 - Patient exposure to X-rays depends on how dentists are paid
February 19, 2018 - Study reveals parents’ views toward children’s tanning bed use
February 19, 2018 - Shot may help reduce risk of shingles
February 19, 2018 - FDA approves first treatment to reduce risk of NSCLC progression
February 19, 2018 - FDA Expands Approval of Imfinzi (durvalumab) to Reduce the Risk of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Progressing
February 19, 2018 - D.C. Week: Congress Passes Spending Bill
February 19, 2018 - Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery
February 19, 2018 - FDA Approves First Blood Test to Detect Concussions
February 19, 2018 - Survival Bump in Bladder Cancer with Keytruda
February 18, 2018 - Scientists describe the mechanism of heart regeneration in the zebrafish
February 18, 2018 - Scientists uncover the structure of microtubule motor proteins
February 18, 2018 - Light-activated cancer drugs without toxic side effects are closer to becoming reality
February 18, 2018 - Pioneering research could provide novel insight into how genomic information is read
February 18, 2018 - Pearls From: David Putrino, PhD
February 18, 2018 - Researchers uncover how cancer stem cells drive triple-negative breast cancer
February 18, 2018 - Morning Break: Anti-Anti-Vaxxers; Private Piercings Prohibited; A Case for Pelvic Massage
February 18, 2018 - Lower-dose radiation effective, safe for HPV+ head and neck cancer after induction chemo
February 18, 2018 - Specialist residential service for adults with autism opens in Swansea
February 18, 2018 - FDA Moves to Limit Loperamide Doses per Package
February 18, 2018 - Alcohol use disorder – Genetics Home Reference
February 18, 2018 - Autism might be better detected using new two-minute questionnaire
February 18, 2018 - Hand hygiene-intervention practices may reduce risk of infection among nursing home patients
February 18, 2018 - Researchers develop most sophisticated mini-livers to date
February 18, 2018 - Obamacare Helped More Young Women Get Prenatal Care: Study
February 18, 2018 - School-Based Program Fails to Dent Kids’ Obesity
February 18, 2018 - Research compares neural activity in children with and without autism spectrum disorder
February 18, 2018 - Poor fitness levels increase the risk dementia, concludes study
February 18, 2018 - Risk Score May Reveal if Kids are Victims of Ill-Treatment
February 18, 2018 - Adding Folic Acid to Corn Masa Flour May Prevent Birth Defects
February 18, 2018 - Acute treatment suppresses posttraumatic arthritis in ankle injury
February 18, 2018 - A Role for Budesonide in Autoimmune Hepatitis?
February 18, 2018 - Lupus patients exhibit altered cell proteins, a discovery with potential implications for diagnostics
February 18, 2018 - Muscle plays vital role in regulating heat loss from the hands
February 18, 2018 - High-tech brain scans can provide new way to define intelligence
February 18, 2018 - Study reveals the association between ultra-processed foods and cancer
February 18, 2018 - Prescription Opioid Use Tied to Higher Pneumonia Risk
February 18, 2018 - A non-invasive method to detect Alzheimer’s disease
February 18, 2018 - Deletion of specific enzyme leads to improvement in memory and cognitive functions
February 18, 2018 - Amyloid protein may be transmitted through neurosurgical instruments, study suggests
February 18, 2018 - Electric brain signals of males and females show differences
February 18, 2018 - American Heart Association commends McDonald’s for offering healthier menu in kids’ meals
February 18, 2018 - Parents Find Kids’ Weight Report Cards Hard to Swallow
February 18, 2018 - Does a Financial Conflict of Interest Ever Expire?
February 18, 2018 - Exercise can improve Alzheimer’s symptoms
February 18, 2018 - Scientists develop green chemistry method to improve pharmaceutical manufacturing efficiency
February 17, 2018 - ‘A Time Clock to a Tissue Clock’ for Acute Stroke Care
February 17, 2018 - Cancer Care Gets Personal | NIH News in Health
February 17, 2018 - Do more youth use or do youth use more?
February 17, 2018 - Eating faster linked to obesity
February 17, 2018 - Who’s Still Smoking? ACS Report Highlights Most Vulnerable Adults
February 17, 2018 - Study of smoking and genetics illuminates complexities of blood pressure
February 17, 2018 - Study reveals new link between bone cells and blood glucose level
February 17, 2018 - Children with reading challenges may have lower than expected binocular vision test results
February 17, 2018 - Mass Shootings Trigger Change for Emergency Medicine
February 17, 2018 - ECMO helps revive woman thought to be drowned
February 17, 2018 - Learning stress-reducing techniques may benefit people with epilepsy
February 17, 2018 - Shedding Pounds Before Weight-Loss Surgery a Smart Move
February 17, 2018 - FDA Approves New Cystic Fibrosis Drug Combo
February 17, 2018 - Augmented Reality helps surgeons to ‘see through’ tissue and reconnect blood vessels
February 17, 2018 - Emotional state affects operation of the entire brain instead of being restricted to specific regions
February 17, 2018 - Apalutamide Slows Metastasis in Prostate Cancer
February 17, 2018 - Kids’ well visits linked to lower appendicitis complications
February 17, 2018 - New NK cell-based immunotherapy effective against several types of leukemia
February 17, 2018 - Producing Super-Swelled Lyotropic Crystals for Drug Development
February 17, 2018 - Pfizer Receives Breakthrough Therapy Designation from FDA for PF-04965842, an oral JAK1 Inhibitor, for the Treatment of Patients with Moderate-to-Severe Atopic Dermatitis
Where you live may influence whether you are overweight, study finds

Where you live may influence whether you are overweight, study finds

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
Families who move to counties with a high obesity rate are more likely to be overweight themselves, according to a USC study done on military families. Credit: iStock

The old real estate adage of “location, location, location” may also apply to obesity.

A new study by USC and the RAND Corp. suggests that people who move to an area with a high obesity rate are likely to become overweight or obese themselves. The researchers say this may be due, in part, to social contagion.

“Social contagion in obesity means that if more people around you are obese, then that may increase your own chances of becoming obese,” said Ashlesha Datar, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “In other words, living in a community where obesity is more common can make sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy eating and overweight or obesity more socially acceptable.”

The study was published today in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Obesity is linked to many factors, including eating and exercise habits, genetics and the environment. Research shows that living in certain communities carries a higher risk of obesity than living in other communities, but this association has been challenging for scientists to explain.

Researchers have proposed and investigated several potential explanations for the concentration of obesity in some communities. One possibility may be simply that people with similar interests and backgrounds tend to locate in similar areas. Another explanation may be that people living in the same community are all influenced by the shared environment, such as opportunities for exercising and healthy eating.

A third explanation may be that obesity is transmitted through social influence.

“Assessing the relative importance of these explanations has been a challenging task and yet is important for designing effective policies to address obesity,” Datar said. “Our study sought to take on that challenge.”

Assessing social contagion

Datar and co-author Nancy Nicosia, a senior economist at RAND, studied military families to assess whether living in communities with greater obesity increased their own risk of being overweight or obese. Military families, they reasoned, cannot choose where they live—rather, they are assigned to installations. Some of those installations are in counties with higher rates of obesity.

“We found that the families assigned to installations in counties with higher obesity rates were more likely to be overweight or obese than those assigned to installations in counties with lower rates of obesity,” Datar said.

Datar and Nicosia used data from the Military Teenagers Environments, Exercise and Nutrition Study (M-TEENS) and from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings. Obesity rates among the counties in the study ranged from 21 percent to 38 percent.

The researchers recruited families of U.S. Army personnel at 38 military installations in the country to participate in surveys and measurements. In all, 1,314 parents and 1,111 children participated. Three-fourths of the parents and about one-fourth of the children were overweight or obese—reflective of the national rates.

Location increases or lowers risk

One in three adults in a typical U.S. county is obese. A family’s risk of obesity may increase or decrease, depending on the county obesity rate where they live.

“If you move a family from a typical county to one with a higher rate of obesity, such as Vernon County in Louisiana where 38 percent of adults are obese, that would increase the parent’s chances of being obese by 25 percent,” Datar said. “It would also increase the chances of the child being overweight or obese by 19 percent.”

The opposite is also true: Moving to a county with a lower rate decreases the family’s chances of becoming overweight or obese.

“If a family moves to a county with a low obesity rate, such as El Paso County in Colorado where about 21 percent of adults are obese, the parent’s chances of being obese would decrease by 29 percent,” Datar said. “The child’s chances of being overweight or obese also would decrease by 23 percent.”

To assess whether shared environments could explain these results, the study accounted for extensive data on the food and activity opportunities in the county and neighborhood, such as gyms and grocery stores.

“We cannot say for sure that we accounted for everything that might influence eating and exercise behaviors,” Datar said. “But we did account for things that researchers in this field typically measure and found that shared environments did not play a critical role in explaining our results.”

“Although we could not measure social contagion directly,” Nicosia said, “our findings support a role for social contagion in obesity.”

The scientists also found that the link between the county’s obesity rate and overweight or obesity in military families was concentrated among families living off base and those who had lived there longer,” Datar said. “This finding suggests that families with greater exposure to obese communities face increased risk.


Explore further:
Odds for weight loss are stacked against children who are obese early on 

More information:
Ashlesha Datar et al. Association of Exposure to Communities With Higher Ratios of Obesity with Increased Body Mass Index and Risk of Overweight and Obesity Among Parents and Children, JAMA Pediatrics (2018). DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.4882

Journal reference:
JAMA Pediatrics

Provided by:
University of Southern California

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles