Friends, Family Are The Biggest Influences On Our Health: Study

Friends, Family Are The Biggest Influences On Our Health: Study

By Briana Rognlin for

A new study found that friends and family are one of the biggest influences on your health, with nearly half of respondents in a multinational survey reporting that their social circles have the most impact on their lifestyle choices. But researchers also confirmed what many of us already know: That there’s an “action gap” between peoples’ desire to be healthy and their willingness to change. Which leads us to wonder: Are friends and family really to blame for poor health, or are they just another excuse for making bad choices?

The Edelman Health Barometer 2011 global survey, conducted by a research firm to determine how business can benefit from promoting health, used online and face-to-face interviews of 15,000 people living in 12 countries to get statistics on what drives health behaviors. Here are some of the most interesting stats about how we see our health in relation to those around us.

- 46 percent say friends and family impact their lifestyle as it relates to health
- 36 percent think friends and family are the biggest influence on their nutrition
- 31 percent distance themselves from friends who engage in unhealthy behavior
- 44 percent say they don’t let health status or behavior affect their social life

Nancy Turett, Edelman’s global president for public relations, says the numbers prove that we’re all responsible for public health:

Whether we mean to or not, we influence public and personal health in all aspects of our lives. Health – good and bad — is communicable, and it is the responsibility of every citizen, especially those of us with leadership roles in any sector or industry, to act on this.

Turett’s message -- that we should all take more responsibility for promoting positive behavior in our communities -- is right on, but what the survey also found is that many people are ultimately failing to follow through at their own attempts to get healthy. While 62 percent of respondents said they tried to change a negative health behavior, only half succeeded. Those who didn’t listed addiction, dependency, lack of enjoyment or absence of an immediate reward as the reasons for their failure.

Serious drug addiction aside, a lot of what the researchers are calling an “action gap” between the desire to change and a real follow-through on the necessary actions seems to us like a failure to take personal responsibility. We’re not saying that choices are easy, but blaming friends and family for your choices just seems to us like passing the blame.

Do you have friends and family who hold you back from health goals? Are you an advocate for healthy living among your friends and family? Tell us how your experiences matches up with the survey results.

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