Archive for the ‘Family and social network’ Category

Death be not proud

October 10, 2014


We all know that death is a creepy topic, and we avoid serious discussion of it like the plague (oops, poor choice of cliche!). Well, Halloween is coming, and I highly recommend your listening to this half-hour interview on the subject of death. You will learn a lot, and be entertained as well. Then, to really get into the gory details (and learn a lot more), explore her website and watch some of her short videos.

Parents, remember these numbers: 5210

July 29, 2012

Five-two-one-zero (5210) is a reminder of what our children need each day in order to be healthy. Here is the breakdown:

5    = Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables

2    = No more than two hours of recreational screen time (no screen time under 2 yrs old)

1    = At least one hour of physical activity

0    = Zero servings of sugary drinks (drink water and fat-free or 1% milk instead)

[To remember the numbers I think “five to ten”]

For more information see

Here is a short video to use as a teaching tool for children:

Here is a more detailed video for help in designing a 5210 program in a community:

Spreading happiness

December 19, 2008


Arthur, a friend who lives in D.C., has a blog, which I enjoy a lot.  This is what he says about spreading happiness, which I am putting here as my official Holiday Message:

Recent studies have apparently shown that happiness is more contagious than sadness. The Washington Post this morning [Dec 5] had a box that showed the likelihood that the happiness of someone in your circle would lead to an increase in your own happiness.

Now, I know this sounds weird, but it said that if your neighbor is happy, you have a 34% chance of having your own happiness increased, but that if your spouse is happy, your chance of increasing your own happiness is only 8%.

So, I have been going about this all wrong. I am going to start concentrating on my neighbors (I assume that means the neighbors in the abutting houses; otherwise, it would be exhausting.). I am going to cut their lawns, bring them dinner, take out their garbage, wash their cars, buy their groceries, and pay their taxes.

This will make them the happiest people around, which will in turn make me happier, and my being happy will make them …  even happier.

Of course, my neighbors are my wife’s neighbors, so she will become happier as well without any effort required on her part. Frankly, though, this is, I guess, of no concern to me, because whether she is happy or not will have no effect on me.

On the other hand, the article did not say what would happen if your spouse, or your neighbor, was sad, not happy. Perhaps, this is the converse (obverse?) – my guess is that my neighbors’ unhappiness would have little effect on my mood. But if my spouse was unhappy……….

In that case, I better hope for very, very happy neighbors.

The power of social networks to improve health

May 22, 2008

Quitting smoking and losing weight (if you are overweight) are perhaps the two most important behavior changes you can make to improve your health. A new article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine confirms what a previous article has shown: people we interact with in our social network (friends, spouse, co-workers, etc.) strongly affect our behavior when it comes to smoking and weight gain or loss. We also affect the other people in our network. Today’s article is titled “The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network” by Christakis NA, Fowler JH (NEJM, Volume 358:2249-2258). The earlier article, and similar research, is described in Weight Management for Your Life (p. 79):

In 2007, an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine with the title “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years” [N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 26;357(4):370-9] The same day the article was published it made front page news. No previous research had focused so intensively on “the obesity epidemic” as a social network phenomenon. The main finding of this elaborate study was that friends have a highly significant influence on our weight, specifically whether we become obese. The effect of friendship was surprisingly large and exceeded the influence of siblings and spouse (whose influence was also significant). … The editorial in the NEJM accompanying the article put it this way: “As the article by Christakis and Fowler [the researchers] shows, … networks, in this case those that pertain to social influence, may have just as strong an impact on the development of obesity as the otherwise strong genetic effects.”

These studies provide exciting and compelling evidence in favor of the bio-psycho-social model for disease and wellness, meaning that biological (e.g., genetic), psychological (e.g., coping) and social (e.g., interpersonal and cultural) factors interact to produce health problems and all must be addressed in reversing or treating these problems.