New Study for the First Time Shows That Who a Person Emails in Their Workplace Can Predict Their Likelihood of Being Obese

A new study has found that relationships between coworkers can predict Body Mass Index (BMI) and that corporate email traffic data can now be used to map a social network that identifies connections influential to one’s likelihood of being obese. Published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE, the study focuses on testing scalable methods for mapping workplace social networks and investigating how well these network maps forecast BMI. The study mapped a corporate social network at a multi-site company using survey data and readily available data from email traffic. Based on the pioneering science developed at Harvard University by Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, and James Fowler, PhD, this research was conducted jointly by social network analytics firm Activate Networks and the world’s largest well-being improvement company, Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY).

“Social influence in the workplace profoundly affects many aspects of our lives, including our health,” said Dr. Christakis. “We have found that social influence is one of the powerful factors, if not the most powerful measurable factor, affecting such health behaviors as weight gain, weight loss, smoking cessation, exercise, mood, and even altruism. This study contributes importantly to our understanding of the power of social networks at work, and it does so by tracing the email communications among people.”

Activate Networks and Healthways utilized corporate email traffic data to identify social connections that proved to predict body mass index (BMI) of individuals in the workplace. The study used data from email traffic that already exists in most organizations, instead of requiring self-reported data, which can often be incomplete, although the study had access to both types of data. The result of the research was a map of the organization that reveals which employees are likely to be the most influential to their peers, and which employees would be more likely to adopt a particular health trait, in this case being either relatively thin or heavy. The study also found that network maps derived from email traffic were comparable to traditional network maps derived from self-reported survey data.

“No previous research has demonstrated that health traits correlate across social ties in a network of coworkers, especially using ties identified through readily available data such as email traffic,” said Luke Matthews, PhD, Director of Analytics at Activate Networks.

The results provide a new method to identify, and focus engagement initiatives on, workers who are more likely to influence the health of their colleagues. This approach represents a novel way of looking at health initiatives at large organizations, as many employers are beginning to adopt wellness programs for their employees and to identify strategies to maximize the success of these programs.

“The PLOS ONE study represents the pioneering science that helps Healthways provide engagement strategies to the 40 million people we serve around the world,” said Elizabeth Rula, PhD, Principle Investigator of Healthways Center for Health Research. “These findings meaningfully advance our approach to total population health management. This is a foundational article demonstrating our ability to map a social network in an employer population using email data as a scalable approach. We’re committed to continually investing in innovation to bring new data and insights to our solutions.”

About Activate Networks, Inc.

Activate Networks, Inc. is the leading provider of network analytics for business and health effectiveness. Activate Networks’ analytics software and capabilities enable organizations to unlock the commercial value of their customer, prospect, and employee real-world social networks by providing key insights about the key social connections in those networks.

Activate Networks’ analytics platform is based on groundbreaking social-science research by the recognized leaders in network science, including Professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, of Harvard University; Professor James Fowler, PhD, of UC San Diego; and Professor Rob Cross, DBA, of the University of Virginia. The company combines its access to this intellectual property with recently available computing power. The result is vastly improved precision in mapping social connections, targeting key influencers, conducting campaigns, and improving organizational effectiveness.

More information can be found at www.activatenetworks.net.

About Healthways

Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the largest independent global provider of well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs. Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years and now serves approximately 40 million people on four continents. Learn more at www.healthways.com.

Contacts:

Healthways Contact:
Kelly Motley, 615-614-4984
kelly.motley@healthways.com
or
Activate Networks Contact:
Kate Trainor, 617-226-7187
kate@thechtgroup.com
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