Weight-Related Behavior Among Adolescents: The Role of Peer Effects

PLoS ONE, Forthcoming

24 Pages Posted: 23 May 2011  

Mir M. Ali

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Aliaksandr Amialchuk

University of Toledo - Department of Economics

Frank Heiland

City University of New York (CUNY) - School of Public Affairs

Date Written: May, 23 2011

Abstract

Purpose: To investigate whether social interactions in friendship networks influence the following weight-related behaviors of adolescents: exercising regularly, playing an active sport, hours of TV/Video viewing, sleeping six or fewer hours, eating breakfast on weekdays, frequency of eating at fast food restaurants, eating five servings of fruits/vegetables daily, and consuming calorie-dense snacks.

Method: Data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents are used to examine the association between peer and individual weight-related behaviors. Evidence from multivariate regression analysis controlling for an extensive list of individual- and family-level factors as well as school-level unobserved heterogeneity is obtained. Results: We find a significant positive association between individuals' and friends’ behaviors in terms of sports, exercise and fast food consumption. The estimated associations are robust to controls for individual- and family-level factors, unobserved heterogeneity at the school level and our attempts to account for non-random peer selection.

Conclusions: The social transmission of weight-related behaviors is a viable explanation for the spread of obesity in friendship networks documented in recent research. Traditional weight reduction interventions may be fruitfully complemented with strategies that focus on harnessing peer support to modify behaviors.

Keywords: Social Networks, Obesity, Adolescents

JEL Classification: I12, J10, Z13

Suggested Citation

Ali, Mir M. and Amialchuk, Aliaksandr and Heiland, Frank, Weight-Related Behavior Among Adolescents: The Role of Peer Effects (May, 23 2011). PLoS ONE, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1850614

Mir M. Ali (Contact Author)

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration ( email )

Rockville, MD
United States

Aliaksandr Amialchuk

University of Toledo - Department of Economics ( email )

Toledo, OH 43606
United States
(419) 530-5147 (Phone)
(419) 530-7844 (Fax)

Frank Heiland

City University of New York (CUNY) - School of Public Affairs ( email )

135 E 22nd St
New York, NY 10010
United States

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