We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”. But did you know that your friends can also influence your health and happiness? Research indicates that you should choose your friends carefully, because they can have a massive impact on the lifestyle you lead.
Surrounding yourself with happy people means you too will improve your chances of being happy. Research published in The BMJ confirms happiness is contagious, especially when it comes to friends, while happy siblings or partners can also help.
Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. While friends can influence us to be healthier, they are also likely to influence poor health. Studies suggest the people you spend your time with could influence whether you’re likely to be impacted by chronic disease, including obesity.
Harvard research determined that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 per cent if they had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Having overweight or obese siblings or partners also increased risks of becoming overweight or obese.
Recent studies also found a similar trend when it comes to quitting smoking. The New England Journal of Medicine investigated the relationship between smoking behaviour and social network ties over a period of 32 years and found that there was an increased tendency for smokers to be connected primarily to other smokers.
If a member of a social group were to quit smoking, other people in that social group were more likely to follow suit. If your significant other were to quit smoking, your chances of smoking would be decreased by 67 per cent.
These findings demonstrate the power of community connections in preventing chronic disease and improving health and happiness. Up to one third of all cancers are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. Quitting smoking, understanding your body and participating in recommended screening, being active, staying SunSmart and eating healthily are your gateways to good health.
It seems we have more power than we think when it comes to making our community healthier and happier – let’s start implementing small changes today to improve the health of our loved ones.
More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via 13 11 20 or cancerqld.org.au