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Obesity Can Spread Like Flu Between Friends and Neighbors

January 24, 2018, 6:15 PM UTC
Government Backs TV Adverts To Promote Healthier Eating
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 07: In this photo-illustration a man holds a burger purchased from a fast food outlet on January 7, 2013 in Bristol, England. A government-backed TV advert - made by Aardman, the creators of Wallace and Gromit - to promote healthy eating in England, is to be shown for the first time later today. England has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe - costing the NHS 5 billion GDP each year - with currently over 60 percent of adults and a third of 10 and 11 year olds thought to be overweight or obese. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Photograph by Matt Cardy—Getty Images

A new study found that obesity, like the flu, can spread between friends and neighbors that you’re in close proximity to.

The research was done by the scientists at the University of Southern California and the Rand Corporation. Their goal was to see if behaviors and beliefs could be spread just like any other pathogen, Newsweek reports.

For the study, the group looked at adolescents and parents living in 12 different military bases. Parents and children that lived in areas with a higher obesity rating were, in general, more likely to be obese themselves. The longer they lived in the community, the greater that risk was.

That doesn’t mean you’re going to “catch” obesity like the common flu. The idea behind the study is that living in a community where fast food is a normal dinner or people tend to watch TV at night rather than take a stroll around the block lends itself to other residents doing the same.

The study advances research from 2007 that found a connection between weight gain and our relationships with others. For instance, friends and family that are the same sex are more likely to gain weight together than those of an opposite sex. More than 70% of Americans are currently considered overweight or obese.