5 Weird and Crazy Ways Your Friends Affect Your Health

posted: 03/30/16
by: Briana Finelli
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Can who you choose as your friends affect your health? Sure, you won't share a drink with your friend who's just getting over a cold, but research says that your friends' habits, behaviors and personalities can have a direct effect on your health, both negative and positive.

1. If your friend becomes obese, you might, too.

Research shows that if your close friend becomes obese, your chances of becoming obese increase by a whopping 171 percent. Now, we aren't saying that you should cut off your friends when they start putting on weight, but being conscious of the habits you pick up is definitely a smart move.

The weirdest thing about this fact is that the level of friendship matters. If you consider someone to be your friend, but it's not exactly mutual, your chances of becoming obese only rise slightly. However, if you're close friends, your risk of becoming obese increases to 57 percent. There's also good news for people who consider you a friend, but not the other way around: Your dietary changes will have no effect on theirs.

2. If your significant other quits smoking, you're less likely to start.

If you've been begging your partner to give up cigarettes, you may be benefitting your own health. Research suggests that if your significant other quits smoking, your chances of picking up a cigarette decrease by 67%.

3. Happy people make you happier.

It might seem like a given that being around happier people boosts your mood, but the amount of joy they bring you really depends on the relationship itself. Proximity seems to play a large role: Happy friends who live within one mile of you increase your chances of happiness by a full 25 percent. Having happy siblings and spouses increases happiness, too, but not as strongly. They can make you 14 percent and 8 percent happier, respectively.

The good news? Research also shows that grumpy office co-workers have no effect on your happiness, so there's no need to worry about that.

4. The average influence between friends extends three degrees.

Let us explain. You're separated by your friend by "one degree," according to the theory. You'd be separated from your friend's friend by two degrees, and so on.

Research shows that there is still a strong correlation between one friend's behavior and habits that can be seen up to three degrees into one's social network, meaning that your friend's friend's friend could be affecting you, too. While the influence isn't all that high, research suggests that individuals naturally pick up other people's habits, making it easier to pass those along through social networks over time.

5. Online social networks might not be all that bad for your health.

While there's a lot of talk about social media being detrimental to our health, one study shows otherwise. When a group of strangers took a 50-day physical activity challenge on Facebook together, there was a 2-hours-per-week increase, on average, of physical activity for each individual. Groups with shared interests can hold each other accountable, provide opportunities for support and offer friendly rivalry, which all serve as major motivating factors.

Are you surprised by any of these weird health tidbits? Did you know that your social circles could have such a big effect on your happiness and health? Knowledge is power, so knowing that who you surround yourself with can affect your daily habits and behaviors can make you more aware, thus more likely to pick up good habits and less likely to pick up bad ones.