A new book out by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler—Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks…— looks at the way personal relationships affect your life, including everything from your weight to whether or not you smoke or drink bad beer.
WIRED has a nifty feature on Christakis and Fowler’s work, including charts and graphs illustrating the way consumer habits spread. Using data from a cardiovascular disease study begun in 1948 as a launching pad, Christakis and Fowler were able to map personal connections in a single community over time. Their discovery
Obesity spread like a virus. Weight gain had a stunning infection rate. If one person became obese, the likelihood that his friend would follow suit increased by 171 percent. (This means that the network is far more predictive of obesity than the presence of genes associated with the condition.)
The duo found a similar pattern for smoking:
In the early ’70s, 65 percent of Framingham residents ages 40 to 49 smoked regularly. By 2001, only 22 percent consumed one or more cigarettes daily. But the smoke didn’t clear at random: Friends and family had a decisive influence. “People quit together,” Fowler says, “or they didn’t quit at all.”
… which makes a lot of sense when you think about it. I guess I better stop hanging out with druggies and whores.
The Buddy System: How Medical Data Reveal Secret to Health and Happiness [Wired Magazine]