Friday, June 6, 2008

Decisons and attempts to quit smoking often cascades through social networks

The National Insititute of Health, NIH, issued a press release on May 21, 2008, about as study published in the May 22, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine which found that the decision and attempt to quit smoking often cascades through social networks. Here is part of what is written in the NIH press release:

When smokers kick the habit, odds are they are not alone in making the move. Instead, the decision to quit smoking often cascades through social networks, with entire clusters of spouses, friends, siblings and co-workers giving up the habit roughly in tandem, according to a new study supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Researchers analyzing changes in smoking behavior over the past three decades within a large social network found smokers quit in groups and not as isolated individuals. Those who continued to smoke also formed clusters that, over time, shifted from the center of the social network, where social connections are more numerous, to the periphery of the group. The report, appearing in the May 22, 2008, New England Journal of Medicine and funded primarily by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the NIH, could play a role in developing clinical and public health interventions to reduce and prevent smoking. The smoking analysis was also supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A little further down in the press release it says:

The researchers found the closer the relationship between contacts, the greater the influence when one person quit smoking. For example:

When a husband or wife quit, it decreased the chance of their spouse smoking by 67 percent.

When a sibling quit, it reduced the chance of smoking by 25 percent among their brothers and sisters.

A friend quitting decreased the chance of smoking by 36 percent among their friends.

In small firms, a co-worker quitting could decrease smoking among peers by 34 percent. In larger firms, the influence was insignificant.

Neighbors did not seem to be influenced by each other’s smoking habits.

"Interestingly, geography did not appear to play a role because smoking behaviors spread between contacts living miles apart and in separate households," said Christakis. "Rather, the closeness of the relationship in the network was key to the spread of smoking behaviors."

It makes me wonder if we could take advantage of this dynamic at GCASA in our outpatient programs and/or residential programs, if we asked clients to find "buddies" to quit with?

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