Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Feeling belittled? Cut off relations with short people!

In July of 2007 The New York Times reported an amazing study on obesity by Harvard Medical School. Based on a statistical analysis of a large social network – over twelve thousand people followed for over thirty years, it concluded that a person’s chances of becoming obese nearly tripled when a close friend got fat (or to put it more nicely: “gravity challenged”). Apparently this effect works at a distance, thus a parent like me who just sent a child off to college can anticipate a pile of pounds from the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” Hey – that’s just not fair for one who’s already fighting a battle of the bulge! Also, I worry about getting connected up to wide-bodied people via LinkedIn and Facebook. I’ve noticed that whenever I start surfing these nets I start munching on Twinkies and other bad foodstuffs. This is not good!

Meanwhile, this bulletin from Yale University (might there be a rivalry between this school and Harvard?) counters with a Study [that] Contradicts Earlier Reports That Some Health Issues Are ‘Contagious’ Among Friends. Using similar statistical techniques as the one done on obesity in social networks the Yale researchers discovered that an individual’s height increased by 20 percent of a close friend's tallness. Therefore I conclude that by spending equal time emailing my beanpole friend and another buddy who inherited a more roomy body type then things will balance out weight-wise on a per height basis.

Now that’s how you can put stats to work with just a little creativity.


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