Social networks and future direction for obesity research: A scoping review

Soohyun Nam, Nancy Redeker, Robin Whittemore
2015 Nursing Outlook  
Despite significant efforts to decrease obesity rates, the prevalence of obesity continues to increase in the United States. Obesity-risk behaviors-physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and sleep deprivation-are intertwined during daily life and are difficult to improve in the current social environment. Studies show that social networks-the thick webs of social relations and interactions-influence various health outcomes, such as HIV risk behaviors, alcohol consumption, smoking, depression,
more » ... d cardiovascular mortality; however, there is limited information on the influences of social networks on obesity and obesity-risk behaviors. Given the complexities of the bio-behavioral pathology of obesity, and the lack of clear evidence of effectiveness and sustainability of existing interventions that are usually focused on an individual approach, targeting change in an individual's health behaviors or attitude may not take sociocontextual factors into account; there is a pressing need for a new perspective on this problem. In this review we evaluate the literature on social networks as a potential approach for obesity prevention and treatment: how social networks affect various health outcomes and present two major social network data analyses (i.e. egocentric and sociometric analysis); and discuss implications and future direction for obesity research using social networks. the removal of duplicates and screening from abstract reviews, we reviewed the full text of the manuscripts. The final process resulted in the identification of 74 articles that were appropriate for the review (Figure 1) . Charting, collating, and summarizing Data from each publication included the authors, date of publication, study population, aims of the studies, outcome measures and main findings. We organized the literature thematically, according to social network concepts, research methodology, negative and positive influences of social networks on various health conditions or health behaviors and the study population (e.g., children vs. adults). An overall description of the material was compiled. We compared the different studies to identify gaps in research on social networks and obesity and reported the results as a narrative summation that emerged from the analysis of the literature, focusing on research questions. Results and Discussion Concepts in social network research The term "social networks" refers to a set of individuals and the ties among them; 29 health and behavioral scientist have a long-standing recognition of the role of social networks on health and health behaviors in various conditions. 20,30-34 Structural and functional characteristics underlie the relationship between social networks and health. 35 Structural characteristics of social networks focus on the members of the network, including the number of network members, stability (turnover rate of members) and density (interconnectedness among network members). The structure of social networks is largely responsible for determining an individual's behavior and attitudes by shaping the flow of resources that determine access to opportunities and constraints on behavior. 16 For example, a lack of social ties (i.e., few supportive social network members) predict mortality of adults experiencing strokes and cancer. [36] [37] [38] [39]
doi:10.1016/j.outlook.2014.11.001 pmid:25982770 pmcid:PMC4438261 fatcat:ykbsbhbgtjagnlf3c4x7nbcw4u