Fat friends: As on the TV show, you're more likely to be overweight if your peers are, a study has found
Spending time with fat friends means you are more likely to become fat yourself, according to research.
Humans are subconsciously influenced by the weight of those around them, which could lead to rising obesity levels in the next decade, the study found.
Europeans decide if they are overweight by comparisons with those around them, rather than by the Body Mass Index.
If their peers are overweight, they are likely to see it as normal – and become fatter themselves.
Graduates, however, are more likely to feel overweight than someone of the same weight with little or no educational qualifications.
The researchers collected and analysed data from 27,000 European adults across 29 countries and found less than a third of men thought that they were overweight.
Professor Andrew Oswald, from the University of Warwick, said: 'Human beings compare themselves among their localised peer group even if they are not conscious of it.'
If fatness levels increase and 'we all start copying each other we will end up with quite serious health problems', he added.
'Rising obesity needs to be thought of as a sociological phenomenon, not a physiological one.'