Magazine article Work & Family Life

Quitting Smoking? Get a Little Help from Your Friends

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Quitting Smoking? Get a Little Help from Your Friends

Article excerpt

There's a strong social factor when it comes to quitting smoking, according to researchers Dr. Nicholas Christakis of the Harvard Medical School and Dr. James Fowler of the university of California, San Diego.

Their study, published in "The New England Journal of Medicine," looked at thousands of smokers and nonsmokers from 1971 until 2003, a period when the percentage of U.S. adult smokers fell from 45 to 25 percent. They reported data on some 5,124 people and 53,228 of their relatives, friends, friends of friends and neighbors.

As the researchers watched smokers in their social networks, they noticed some striking effects. For example, smokers formed small social clusters and, as the years went by, entire clusters stopped smoking at the same time. People did not stop smoking one by one, they were stopping in groups.

Then, as cluster after cluster of smokers disappeared, those who continued to smoke were pushed to the margins of society. They hung out with fewer friends and made fewer social connections. "Smokers used to be the center of the party," Dr. Fowler said, "but now they've become wallflowers" who "are likely to drive friends away."

To put it another way: smoking is not only bad for your physical health, it's bad for your social health. …

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