Employees’ cafeteria purchases—both healthy and unhealthy foods—were influenced by their co-workers’ food choices, found a large, two-year study of hospital employees. The study made innovative use of cash register data to gain insights into how individuals’ social networks shape their health behavior. The research suggests we might structure future efforts aimed at improving population health by capitalizing on how one person’s behavior influences another.
The foods people buy at a workplace cafeteria may not always be chosen to satisfy an individual craving or taste for a particular food. When co-workers are eating together, individuals are more likely to select foods that are as healthy—or unhealthy—as the food selections on their fellow employees’ trays. “We found that individuals tend to mirror the food choices of others in their social circles, which may explain one way obesity spreads through social networks,” says Douglas Levy, PhD, an investigator at the Mongan Institute Health Policy Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and first author of new research published in Nature Human Behaviour.
Release date: 22 April 2021
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital