Social interaction may provide health benefit
“The basic questions we were asking was about the social determinants of health and physical infrastructure,” Varshney said. “The question we looked at was, is there a relationship between the opportunity to socialize and obesity rates?”
To go about finding an answer, Varshney and Bai collected data from the social media platform Four Square across the city of New York. They analyzed neighborhoods to figure out different venues for social interaction were available; restaurants, parks, stadiums, etc. They then compared this analysis to the obesity rates of these neighborhoods.
“We found was there is a strong association between the number of venues for social interaction and obesity,” Varshney said. “The more venues the lower the obesity rates.”
These results held true even when they were controlled for wealth and income across the various neighborhoods. While these findings represent an association between venues and obesity and not a causation, it does suggest that building more places for social interaction may be beneficial to public health.In 2015 Varshney and Bai won the NYC Media Lab – Bloomberg Data for Good Exchange Paper Award for their work in this area.
As we get into the holiday season, we at CSL are putting together a series of stories about research for which we are grateful.This is the first in the Thankful Series featuring research our scientists have conducted for social good.