Fat Kids Have Fat Friends, Study Says

Fat kids are twice as likely to have friends who are overweight, according to a new study out of the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. The study examined the social networking behaviors of Los Angeles area students to raise awareness about the social impact of obesity among adolescents.

fat friendsSocial networking means more than just logging on to Facebook. For kids, it can be “social fatworking” as well. At least that’s what researchers from University of Southern California found in a recent study.

According to an investigative team from USC’s Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research at the Keck School of Medicine, overweight youth are twice as likely to have overweight friends.

Now, it’s no secret that overweight adults tend to have overweight peers. There’s no shortage of beer bellies down at the Lodge. But, the new study reveals for the first time that obese children tend to start hanging out with other obese kids earlier than anyone thought – and that can reinforce the kind of negative behaviors that made the fat in the first place.

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The study examined the social networking behaviors of more than 600 students ranging in age from 11 to 13, all from the greater Los Angeles area. After crunching the numbers, the team at USC discovered that the adolescents who were overweight were significantly more likely to have overweight friends when compared to kids of normal weight.

And that’s not the worst of it. As anyone who attended junior high school knows, there’s a price to be paid for being different at that age – and overweight kids pay big. The bill is particularly steep for plus-sized girls. The researchers found that overweight girls were more likely to have a long list of friends — but less likely than normal-weight girls to be named as a friend. Ouch.

While the conclusions reached by this study seem obvious at first – who doesn’t know that the fat kids all sit together in the cafeteria? – the researchers behind it point out that the real lesson here is for parents, educators, and caregivers.

They hope that the study will prompt greater awareness among those responsible for kids of the social impact of obesity among adolescents.

They also hope that further studies examining a greater cross-section of young people will be done in order to more accurately assess the effect obesity can have on the social lives of adolescents.