Now here’s a contagion that might not be so bad to encounter. The LA Times reports a new analysis of the running habits of about 1.1 million people reveals that exercise is indeed contagious — though its communicability depends on who’s spreading it.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, also reveal that certain relationships are better at spreading the running bug than others — and could have implications for the study of other social contagions, such as obesity and smoking.
In recent years, researchers in a wide range of fields — from economics and politics to medicine and computer science — have begun to investigate the ways in which many of our individual decisions affect the decisions of our peers, and how behavioral changes may spread through a social network.
“If behavioural contagions exist,” the study authors wrote, “understanding how, when and to what extent they manifest in different behaviours will enable us to transition from independent intervention strategies to more effective interdependent interventions that incorporate individuals’ social contexts into their treatments.”
Creating health and other interventions that effectively could harness the social network to maximize their benefit would be a real game-changer, researchers say. But it’s been difficult to draw conclusions from studies based on self-reporting surveys (where participants may not be fully honest or aware of their own behaviors) or laboratory experiments (which may not fully capture the real-life complexities of causal relationships within social networks).Leave a reply →