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Obesity and Cascading Behavior In Networks

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa066082

This academic paper examines the data of the health and well being of 12,000 people over a period of 30 years. It carefully analyzes the social network formed by the people which the data was collected on and concludes on how this social network influences the individual people who are present in the group to become obese. It also provides some statistics which represents the threshold model which shows how the individuals in the study were susceptible to becoming obese from the people they surrounded themselves or associated with.

 

The cascading behavior in social networks can be observed in many forms and this academic paper provides a real-life example of how a behavior spreads through a social network. This academic paper shows that the rise in obesity among Americans is an increasing danger to the health of the people and decided to observe how it spread through the people in society. These researchers were able to conclude that clusters present in the network of people who the data was taken from were likely to have the same body mass index. Although it observed that not all people which were connected to an obese person were likely to become obese, they did find that the chances of an individual becoming obese also stemmed from the relationship between the people which they were connected to. This means that the specific relationship between people present in the network was also a factor which determines whether a person was likely to become obese or not. This study showed that the chances of a person becoming obese if they had a friend who was already obese was 57% whiles the chances if a person had a sibling who was obese was 40%. These percentages were not the same when accounting for neighbors or people in the same geographical location.

In class, we observed how a product would be adopted by different people in a network depending on the number of his or her friends who had already adopted a certain product. The example provided in class can be compared to this as the study shows how people are susceptible to becoming obese depending on whether the people around a person were obese or not. Although the study did not use our exact principles to provide the threshold model it still provided probabilities on how the relationship between two people would influence the other to become obese or not. This study shows that the principles of cascading behavior is always present in social networks and urges us to study and use them to effect change to help reduce the obesity epidemic.

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