[gov3009-l] Christakis on "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: The Spread of Health Phenomena In Social Networks”

Justin Grimmer jgrimmer at fas.harvard.edu
Mon Mar 31 10:00:16 EDT 2008

Dear Applied Statistics Workshop,

Please join us this Wednesday when Nicholas Christakis--Professor,
Department of Sociology (Harvard University) and Medical Sociology (Harvard
Medical School)--who will be present "Eat Drink and Be Merry: The Spread of
Health Phenomena In Social Networks".  Nicholas provided the following

Our work has involved the quantitative investigation of whether and how
various health-related phenomena might  spread from person to person.  For
example, we explored the nature and extent of person-to-person spread of
obesity.  We developed a densely interconnected network of 12,067 people
assessed repeatedly from 1971 to 2003.   We used longitudinal statistical
models and network-scientific methods to examine whether weight gain in one
person was associated with weight gain in friends, siblings, spouses, and
neighbors.  Discernible clusters of obese persons were present in the
network at all time points, and the clusters extended three people deep.
 These clusters were not solely due to selective formation of social ties.
 A friend becoming obese in a given time interval increased a person's
chances of becoming obese by 57% (95% CI:  6%-123%).  Among pairs of adult
siblings, one becoming obese increased the chance that the other became
obese by 40% (21%-60%).  Among spouses, one becoming obese increased the
likelihood that the other became obese by 37% (7%-73%).  Among those working
in small firms, a co-worker becoming obese increased a person's chances of
becoming obese by 41% (17-59%).  Immediate neighbors did not exhibit these
effects.  We have also conducted similar investigations of other health
behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, exercising, and the receipt of health
screening, and of other health phenomena, such as happiness and depression.
 Various aspects of our findings suggest that the spread of social norms may
partly underlie inter-personal health effects.  Our findings have
implications for clinical and public health interventions, and for
cost-effectiveness assessments of preventive and therapeutic interventions.
 They also lay a new foundation for public health by providing a rationale
for the claim that health is not just an individual, but also a collective,

Nicholas also provided a link to his paper

The applied statistics workshop meets in room N354 in CGIS-Knafel, (1737
Cambridge st.)  A light lunch will be served at 12 noon with the
presentation beginning around 1215.  Please contact me with any questions

Justin Grimmer
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