Social network body size is associated with body size norms of South Asian adults

Obes Med. 2018 Sep;11:25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.obmed.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


Aims: To examine the association between social network body size and body size norms in South Asian adults.

Methods: Participants (n = 766) from the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study (2014-2018) provided detailed information about their five closest network members. Participants' perceptions of their network members' body sizes, their own body size (self-body size), and a healthy body size for men and women (body size norms) were assessed using the Stunkard 9-figure scale. Adjusted hierarchical linear regression models were used to examine associations between the average body size of network members and perceived body size norms.

Results: Participants' average age was 59.1 years (SD = 9.2) and 44.1% were women. Participants reported an average network body size of 4.0 (SD = 1.1). The average body size norm for male and female Stunkard images was 3.6 (SD = 1.0) and 3.4 (SD = 0.8), respectively. Social network body size was positively associated with increasing body size norms (β-coefficient = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.26, 0.36), independent of self-body size.

Discussion: Social networks may influence body size norms in South Asian adults. Long-term follow up of the MASALA cohort will determine if social network body size and body size norms are associated with weight- control behaviors and weight change.

Keywords: Body size norms; Cardiovascular risk; Obesity; Social network influence; South Asian American.