Alcohol use, alcoholism, and various alcohol abuse problems are more commonly associated with men than…
Social Networks May Affect Drinking Habits
A new study discovered that the drinking habits of the people in your extended social group play a major role in determining your own alcohol consumption. Researchers used data from a previous study, Framingham Heart Study, which looked at the behavioral patterns of 12,067 people for more than 30 years in terms of obesity, smoking, and sexually transmitted diseases. For this study, the researchers explored patterns of drinking in a large social network.
Nicolas Christakis, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and lead author of the study, which was published in Annals of Internal Medicine, said that they found that the influence of one’s social network can affect your health just as much as your genetic background or family history.
The researchers found that an individual was 50 percent more likely to drink heavily if a person they are directly connected with also drink heavily; they were 36 percent more likely to drink heavily if a friend of a friend drinks heavily. This extended up to three degrees of separation.
Suggesting that this pattern could have other implications for clinical and health interventions, the researchers said that social networks could be used to encourage positive health behaviors.
Dr. Christakis said that their findings underscore the idea that drinking involves groups of people who have shared behaviors, and that looking at people’s social networks can be beneficial when treating for problem drinking.
Source: Science Daily, Your Social Network May Affect Your Drinking Habits, April 9, 2010.