Social Networks Play a Role in Childhood Obesity
(HealthDay News) – Afterschool friendships play a critical role in setting physical activity patterns in children as young as 5–12 years.
Sabina B. Gesell, PhD, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and colleagues analyzed data from school-aged children participating in aftercare (81 participants; mean age, 7.96 years). Each child's social network was mapped using a name generator survey, and accelerometers were used to measure physical activity.
The researchers found that the strongest influence on children's afterschool activity level was the activity level of their immediate friends. Children made adjustments of >10% to their activity levels to match their peers' activity levels (odds ratio, 6.89). Age and obesity status had marginal effects on activity. Gender had no direct effect on activity level.
"These results suggest that friendship ties play a critical role in setting physical activity patterns in children as young as 5–12 years," the authors write. "Network-based interventions hold the potential to produce clinically significant changes to children's physical activity"