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J Obes. 2013;2013:480630. doi: 10.1155/2013/480630. Epub 2013 Jun 6.

Examining social influence on participation and outcomes among a network of behavioral weight-loss intervention enrollees.

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  • 1Division of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Research suggests that social networks, social support, and social influence are associated with weight trajectories among treatment- and non-treatment-seeking individuals. This study examined the impact of having a social contact who participated in the same group behavioral weight-control intervention in the absence of specific social support training on women engaged in a weight-loss program. Participants (n = 92; 100% female; 54% black; mean age: 46 ± 10 years; mean BMI: 38 ± 6) were grouped based upon whether or not they reported a social contact enrolled previously/concurrently in our behavioral weight-control studies. Primary outcomes were 6-month weight change and treatment adherence (session attendance and self-monitoring). Half of the participants (53%) indicated that they had a social contact; black women were more likely to report a social contact than white women (67.3% versus 39.5%; P < 0.01). Among participants with a social contact, 67% reported at least one contact as instrumental in the decision to enroll in the program. Those with a contact lost more weight (5.9 versus 3.7 kg; P = 0.04), attended more group sessions (74% versus 54%; P < 0.01), and submitted more self-monitoring journals (69% versus 54%; P = 0.01) than those without a contact. Participants' weight change was inversely associated with social contacts' weight change (P = 0.04). There was no association between participant and contact's group attendance or self-monitoring. Social networks may be a promising vehicle for recruiting and engaging women in a behavioral weight-loss program, particularly black women. The role of a natural social contact deserves further investigation.

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