You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
– Jim Rohn (1930-2009) Author, The 12 Pillars of Success
When it comes to relationships, we are greatly influenced — whether we like it or not — by those closest to us. Relationships affect our ways of thinking, our self-esteem, and our decisions. We like to think we are captains of our own ship, yet the evidence makes it clear that we are far more affected by those we spend the most time with than we realize. Anyone working in healthcare is familiar with the “widowhood effect”, the sharp spike in widows dying a short time after their long-time spouse has died. There is a strong link between our social life and our health.
Compelling social science has determined that many behaviors can mimic the common cold because they are highly contagious. Behaviors are spread not through germs but social networks. Transmission is either individual to individual or through culture/media to the entire population. We humans are social animals. If your friends are obese smokers, you are prone to ‘catch’ this lifestyle yourself. But the same goes in the opposite direction, if your friends and co-workers are fit and healthy eaters you are likely to be as well.
Here are examples of social contagion, click the link to read the evidence.
- Adolescent violence
- Eating habits
- Humor and laughter
- Rudeness (low -intensity negative behaviors)
- Smoking (including cessation and relapse)
- Job satisfaction and turnover
- Physical activity (or inactivity)
- Adolescent suicide
You get to decide who to surround yourself with, to spiral up or spiral down, to host a preventable chronic illness or not. We have more power about our health status than we fully acknowledge. Choose your friends wisely.