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Want To Quit Smoking? Look To Social Networks

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, May 22, 2008 10:55 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: Smoking, Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Engle Trust Fund, COPD

Smoking tends to follow in clusters of social groups, both in quitting and starting.



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ social smoking/ Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952/ Film Screenshot- public domain


Smokers wanting to say goodbye to their cigarettes, tend to have better luck in a social network with the support and influence of friends and family.

A new study from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego finds that smoking cessation program geared to groups may have the most success.

Participants were followed for 32 years beginning in 1971 as part of the federal Framingham Heart Study. It was initiated after World War II to understand the causes of heart disease. Smoking habits were part of the data collected.

More than 5,000 people were followed throughout the years as were their social contacts amounting to more than 53,000 friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers. 

On average, smokers gathered in groups of three and that remained the same over the years, despite the fact that many smokers quit.  

During that time smoking was losing popularity falling off from 45 to 21 percent.  Investigators watched the trends. They found smokers in social clusters were quitting together. Even clusters of people associated with other clusters were quitting. 

More education tended to result in more influence from friends. Spouses were the most influential in reducing a person’s chances of smoking (67 percent), followed by a friend (36 percent), than coworkers (34 percent), then a sibling (25 percent).  

The conclusion- smoking is not just bad for your health, it’s bad for your social health. 

Smoking behavior, both quitting and starting, spreads through social networks of close and distant social ties and those who continue to smoke are increasingly marginalized by society which can worsen someone suffering from mental health problems.

The paper, financed by the National Institute on Aging, is published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).  #

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