Are social relationships a healthy influence on obesogenic behaviors among racially/ethnically diverse and socio-economically disadvantaged residents?

Prev Med. 2013 Jan;56(1):70-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.11.012. Epub 2012 Nov 28.


Objective: To examine associations between social support and ties (family, friend, and neighbors) individually and jointly with diet and physical activity among an ethnically-diverse, low-income population.

Methods: The Health in Common study (2005-2009) was designed to examine risk factors among individuals residing in low-income housing in the Boston, MA area. Cross-sectional surveys (n = 828) were administered in residents' homes. Linear/logistic multivariable analyses were employed with clustering of individuals within housing sites controlled as a random effect.

Results: In multivariable analyses, total social support was significantly associated with higher red meat consumption per day (p = 0.029). Having more friends was significantly associated with more daily fruit and vegetable intake (p = 0.007) and higher levels of daily vigorous physical activity (p = 0.011). Those who reported having a greater number of family ties also reported higher daily consumption of sugary drinks (p = 0.013) and fast food (p = 0.011). More neighbor social ties were associated with more fast food per day (p = 0.024).

Conclusions: Social relationships can have both positive and negative associations with health behaviors. Understanding these relationships could help to inform the design of interventions that promote healthy behavior change among vulnerable populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Boston
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Poverty / ethnology*
  • Social Support
  • Young Adult