Peer pressure can keep you healthy

December 6, 2010

Hanging out with healthy friends could be the best way to keep fit. A study of 3610 Australian women, published in BioMed Central's open access International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that physical activity and healthy eating behavior were both strongly affected by social norms.

Kylie Ball, from Deakin University, Australia, worked with a team of researchers to survey the 18-46 year old women. She said, "The importance of social environmental influences on health-promoting behaviors such as physical activity and has been increasingly recognized. Ours is one of the first studies to demonstrate the association of both social support and social norms with physical activity and eating behaviors".

The researchers tested the extent to which a fashion for healthy behavior among a person's contacts could influence their own lifestyle. The women who took part in the study were asked to rate how much they agreed with statements like "I often see other people walking in my neighborhood" and "Lots of women I know eat fast food often". Those women who moved in healthier circles were in turn more likely to eat well and get more .

According to Ball, "These findings suggest that healthy behavior may be contagious. The potential to modify social norms as an intervention lever for promoting increased engagement in and healthy eating is worthy of further investigation".

More information: Is healthy behavior contagious: associations of social norms with physical activity and healthy eating, Kylie Ball, Robert W Jeffery, Gavin Abbott, Sarah A McNaughton and David Crawford, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (in press),

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Want to exercise more? Get yourself some competition

October 27, 2016

Imagine you're a CEO trying to get your employees to exercise. Most health incentive programs have an array of tools—pamphlets, websites, pedometers, coaching, team activities, step challenges, money—but what actually ...

Some breastfeeding advice worth ditching: US task force

October 25, 2016

A review of scientific evidence on breastfeeding out Tuesday found that some long-held advice is worth ditching, including that babies should avoid pacifiers and moms should breastfeed exclusively in the first days after ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.