Women belonging small social networks are more likely to grow obese

Being lonely is dangerous. Humans are social animals and we are the healthiest when we belong to a group. However, some of us don’t have a group to belong to and remain alone. Scientists from the University of British Columbia found that women who maintain a very small social circle are much more likely to be obese.

Men are less likely to be obese if they belong to larger social circles. Image credit: Bengt Nyman via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

Obesity is a big public health problem. Obese people have a shorter life expectancy, they have a worse quality of life and tend to feel rejected by society. Losing weight is sometimes very difficult, especially when someone is addicted to food or uses food as a coping mechanism. Scientists analyzed the social ties of 28,238 adults aged 45 to 85 to see how social integration is related to the likelihood of obesity.

Researchers found that women with very small social circles, in particular those that were single, widowed, divorced or separated, had higher odds of abdominal and general obesity. Those women who had no monthly social activities had the highest average waist size. Interestingly, this was not true for men – those with more than 219 contacts in their social network were more likely to be obese than those with smaller social circles. Scientists didn’t look into the reasons why this is the case, but they think it is because of different gender roles. It could be that men feel a lot of stress managing large social networks. Researchers also didn’t look into causal relations between obesity and social interactions.

Scientists say that clinicians should pay more attention towards people’s social interactions. This may be a good predictor whether someone’s weight is going to increase. They should also consider encouraging people going out more often. This will include walking and meeting people. Getting out of the house is always beneficial as it lifts up your mood. Scientists are already thinking about the direction for further studies.

Zeinab Hosseini, lead author of the study, said: “Not only did we find that minimal social participation was associated with obesity in older women, but also that social participation altered the levels of obesity in widowed women. These findings call for studies that will follow the participants over time to understand the possible causal links between different social connections and the health of older women and men”.

Obesity ruins everything, but it is not the end of the world. Health professionals can help you overcome everything – diet and exercise will actually make you feel good. They can help you deal with food addiction and even social anxiety. Surround yourself with good people and don’t give up on yourself. You can deal with this just like any other problem.


Source: UBC

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