Do Birds of a Feather Flock Together Within a Team-Based Physical Activity Intervention? A Social Network Analysis

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $115.00

1 year subscription

USD  $153.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $218.00

2 year subscription

USD  $285.00

Background: Homophily is the tendency to associate with friends similar to ourselves. This study explored the effects of homophily on team formation in a physical activity challenge in which “captains” signed up their Facebook friends to form teams. Methods: This study assessed whether participants (n = 430) were more similar to their teammates than to nonteammates with regard to age, sex, education level, body mass index, self-reported and objectively measured physical activity, and negative emotional states; and whether captains were more similar to their own teammates than to nonteammates. Variability indices were calculated for each team, and a hypothetical variability index, representing that which would result from randomly assembled teams, was also calculated. Results: Within-team variability was less than that for random teams for all outcomes except education level and depression, with differences (SDs) ranging from +0.15 (self-reported physical activity) to +0.47 (age) (P < .001 to P = .001). Captains were similar to their teammates except in regard to age, with captains being 2.6 years younger (P = .003). Conclusions: Results support hypotheses that self-selected teams are likely to contain individuals with similar characteristics, highlighting potential to leverage team-based health interventions to target specific populations by instructing individuals with risk characteristics to form teams to help change behavior.

Edney, Olds, Curtis, and Maher are with the School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia. Ryan is with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Adelaide, SA, Australia. Plotnikoff is with the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Vandelanotte is with Physical Activity Research Group, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, QLD, Australia.

Edney (Sarah.Edney@unisa.edu.au) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    World Health Organization (WHO). WHO Global Status Report on Noncommunicable Diseases. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2014.

  • 2.

    Commonwealth of Australia. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Canberra, Australia: Department of Health; 2017.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    World Health Organization (WHO). Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO; 2010.

  • 4.

    Hallal PC, Andersen LB, Bull FC, Guthold R, Haskell W, Ekelund U. Global physical activity levels: surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. Lancet. 2012;380(9838):247–257. PubMed ID: 22818937 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60646-1

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2014–15. Canberra, Australia: ABS, Australian Government; 2015.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Cohen S. Psychosocial models of the role of social support in the etiology of physical disease. Health Psychol. 1988;7(3):269–297. PubMed ID: 3289916 doi:10.1037/0278-6133.7.3.269

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Heath GW, Parra DC, Sarmiento OL, et al. Evidence-based intervention in physical activity: lessons from around the world. Lancet. 2012;380(9838):272–281. PubMed ID: 22818939 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60816-2

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Bauman AE, Reis RS, Sallis JF, Wells JC, Loos RJF, Martin BW. Correlates of physical activity: why are some people physically active and others not? Lancet. 2012;380(9838):258–271. PubMed ID: 22818938 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60735-1

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Lane J, Rodriguez D. Examining interpersonal relationship factors that influence dietary and physical activity practices in African American adolescents. Int J Health Wellness Soc. 2018;8(2):35–47. doi:10.18848/2156-8960/CGP/v08i02/35-47

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Cavallo DN, Brown JD, Tate D, DeVellis RF, Zimmar C, Ammerman AS. The role of companionship, esteem, and informational support in explaining physical activity among young women in an online social network intervention. J Behav Med. 2014;37(5):955–966. PubMed ID: 24081454 doi:10.1007/s10865-013-9534-5

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Cohen DA, Finch BK, Bower A, Sastry N. Collective efficacy and obesity: the potential influence of social factors on health. Soc Sci Med. 2006;62(3):769–778. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.06.033

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Mohr DC, Cuijpers P, Lehman K. Supportive accountability: a model for providing human support to enhance adherence to eHealth interventions. J Med Internet Res. 2011;13(1):e30. PubMed ID: 21393123 doi:10.2196/jmir.1602

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Giles-Corti B, Donavon RJ. The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Soc Sci Med. 2002;54(12):1793–1812. doi:10.1016/S0277-9536(01)00150-2

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Leahey TM, Crane MM, Pinto AM, Weinberg B, Kumar R, Wing RR. Effect of teammates on changes in physical activity in a statewide campaign. Prev Med. 2010;51(1):45–49. PubMed ID: 20394768 doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2010.04.004

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Maher C, Ferguson M, Vandelanotte C, et al. A web-based, social networking physical activity intervention for insufficiently active adults delivered via Facebook app: randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2015;17(7):e174. PubMed ID: 26169067 doi:10.2196/jmir.4086

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    Rote AE, Rote LK, Brondino MJ, Harley AE, Swartz AM. The efficacy of a walking intervention using social media to increase physical activity: a randomized trial. J Phys Act Health. 2015;12(suppl 1):S18. doi:10.1123/jpah.2014-0279

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Looyestyn J, Kernot J, Boshoff K, Maher C. A web-based, social networking beginners’ running intervention for adults aged 18 to 50 years delivered via a Facebook group: randomized controlled trial. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(2):e67. PubMed ID: 29483065 doi:10.2196/jmir.7862

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Valle CG, Tate DF, Mayer DK, Allicock M, Cai J. A randomized trial of a Facebook-based physical activity intervention for young adult cancer survivors. J Cancer Surviv. 2013;7(3):355–368. PubMed ID: 23532799 doi:10.1007/s11764-013-0279-5

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Cavallo DN, Tate DF, Ries AV, Brown JD, DeVellis RF, Ammerman AS. A social media-based physical activity intervention: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Prev Med. 2012;43(5):527–532.

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Pagoto SL, Schneider KL, Oleski J, Smith B, Bauman M. The adoption and spread of a core-strengthening exercise through an online social network. J Phys Act Health. 2014;11(3):648–653. PubMed ID: 23416874 doi:10.1123/jpah.2012-0040

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Alley SJ, Kolt GS, Duncan MJ, et al. The effectiveness of a web 2.0 physical activity intervention in older adults—a randomised controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2018;15(1):4. PubMed ID: 29329587 doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0641-5

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Zhang J, Brackbill D, Yang S, Centola D. Efficacy and causal mechanism of an online social media intervention to increase physical activity: results of a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med Rep. 2015;2:651–657. PubMed ID: 26844132 doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2015.08.005

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Rovniak LS, Kong L, Hovell MF, et al. Engineering online and in-person social networks for physical activity: a randomized trial. Ann Behav Med. 2016;50(6):885–897. PubMed ID: 27405724 doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9814-8

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Wing RR, Pinto AM, Crane MM, Kumar R, Weinberg BM, Gorin AA. A statewide intervention reduces BMI in adults: shape up Rhode Island results. Obesity. 2009;17(5):991–995. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.655

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    Kernot J, Olds T, Lewis LK, Maher C. Usability testing and piloting of the Mums Step It Up program—a team-based social networking physical activity intervention for women with young children. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(10):e108842. PubMed ID: 25272039 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108842

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Feeney BC, Collins NL. A new look at social support: a theoretical perspective on thriving through relationships. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2015;19(2):113–147. PubMed ID: 25125368 doi:10.1177/1088868314544222

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Patel MS, Asch DA, Rosin R, et al. Individual versus team-based financial incentives to increase physical activity: a randomized, controlled trial. J Gen Intern Med. 2016;31(7):746–754. PubMed ID: 26976287 doi:10.1007/s11606-016-3627-0

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Weight CJ, Sellon JL, Lessard-Anderson CR, Shanafelt TD, Olsen KD, Laskowski ER. Physical activity, quality of life, and burnout among physician trainees: the effect of a team-based, incentivized exercise program. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013;88(12):1435–1442. PubMed ID: 24290117 doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.09.010

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Maher CA, Lewis LK, Ferrar K, Marshall S, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Vandelanotte C. Are health behavior change interventions that use online social networks effective? A systematic review. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(2):e40. PubMed ID: 24550083 doi:10.2196/jmir.2952

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30.

    Laranjo L, Arguel A, Neves AL, et al. The influence of social networking sites on health behavior change: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015;22(1):243–256. PubMed ID: 25005606 doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2014-002841

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 31.

    Tong HL, Laranjo L. The use of social features in mobile health interventions to promote physical activity: a systematic review. npj Digit Med. 2018;1(1):43. doi:10.1038/s41746-018-0051-3

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32.

    Gell NM, Grover KW, Humble M, Sexton M, Dittus K. Efficacy, feasibility, and acceptability of a novel technology-based intervention to support physical activity in cancer survivors. Support Care Cancer. 2017;25(4):1291–1300. PubMed ID: 27957621 doi:10.1007/s00520-016-3523-5

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33.

    Vandelanotte C, Spathonis KM, Eakin EG, Owen N. Website-delivered physical activity interventions: a review of the literature. Am J Prev Med. 2007;33(1):54–64.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 34.

    McPherson ML, Smith-Lovin L, Cook JM. Birds of a feather: homophily in social networks. Annu Rev Sociol. 2001;27:415–444. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.415

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 35.

    Lazarsfeld PF, Merton RK. Friendship as a social process: a substantive and methodological analysis. In: Berger M, Abel T, Page CH, eds. Freedom and Control in Modern Society. New York, NY: Van Nostrand; 1954:18–66.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 36.

    Block P, Grund T. Multidimensional homophily in friendship networks. Netw Sci. 2014;2(2):189–212. doi:10.1017/nws.2014.17

  • 37.

    Aral S, Nicolaides C. Exercise contagion in a global social network. Nat Commun. 2017;8:14753. PubMed ID: 28418379 doi:10.1038/ncomms14753

  • 38.

    Christakis NA, Fowler JH. The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. N Engl J Med. 2007;357(4):370–379. PubMed ID: 17652652 doi:10.1056/NEJMsa066082

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 39.

    Christakis NA, Fowler JH. The collective dynamics of smoking in a large social network. N Engl J Med. 2008;358(21):2249–2258. PubMed ID: 18499567 doi:10.1056/NEJMsa0706154

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 40.

    Kruisselbrink LD, Dodge AM, Swanburg SL, MacLeod AL. Influence of same-sex and mixed-sex exercise settings on the social physique anxiety and exercise intentions of males and females. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2004;26(4):616–622. doi:10.1123/jsep.26.4.616

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 41.

    Carron AV, Estabrooks PA, Horton H, Prapavessis H, Hausenblas HA. Reductions in the social anxiety of women associated with group membership: distraction, anonymity, security, or diffusion of evaluation? Group Dyn. 1999;3:152–160. doi:10.1037/1089-2699.3.2.152

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 42.

    Stanton AL, Danoff-Burg S, Cameron CL, Snider PR, Kirk SB. Social comparison and adjustment to breast cancer: an experimental examination of upward affiliation and downward evaluation. Health Psychol. 1999;18(2):151–158. PubMed ID: 10194050 doi:10.1037/0278-6133.18.2.151

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 43.

    Sawka KJ, McCormack GR, Nettel-Aguirre A, Hawe P, Doyle-Baker PK. Friendship networks and physical activity and sedentary behavior among youth: a systematized review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2013;10(1):130. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-10-130

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 44.

    Centola D. An experimental study of homophily in the adoption of health behavior. Science. 2011;334(6060):1269–1272. PubMed ID: 22144624 doi:10.1126/science.1207055

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 45.

    Centola D, van de Rijt A. Choosing your network: social preferences in an online health community. Soc Sci Med. 2015;125:19–31. PubMed ID: 24951403 doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.019

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 46.

    Meng J. Your health buddies matter: preferential selection and social influence on weight management in an online health social network. Health Commun. 2016;31(12):1460–1471. PubMed ID: 27055008 doi:10.1080/10410236.2015.1079760

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 47.

    Shalizi CR, Thomas AC. Homophily and contagion are generically confounded in observational social network studies. Sociol Methods Res. 2011;40(2):211–239. PubMed ID: 22523436 doi:10.1177/0049124111404820

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 48.

    Noel H, Nyhan B. The “unfriending” problem: the consequences of homophily in friendship for causal estimates of social influence. Social Network. 2011;33(3):211–218. doi:10.1016/j.socnet.2011.05.003

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 49.

    Aral S, Walker D. Tie strength, embeddedness, and social influence: a large-scale networked experiment. Manag Sci. 2014;60(6):1352–1370. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2014.1936

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 50.

    Edney S, Plotnikoff R, Vandelanotte C, et al. “Active Team” a social and gamified app-based physical activity intervention: randomised controlled trial study protocol. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):859. PubMed ID: 29096614 doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4882-7

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 51.

    Esliger DW, Rowlands A, Hurst T, Catt M, Murray P, Eston RG. Validation of the GENEA accelerometer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(6):1085–1093. PubMed ID: 21088628 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31820513be

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 52.

    Lovibond SH, Lovibond PF. Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. Sydney, Australia: Psychology Foundation of Australia; 1995. Psychology Foundation Monograph.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 53.

    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The Active Australia Survey: A Guide and Manual for Implementation, Analysis and Reporting. Canberra, Australia: AIHW; 2003.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 54.

    Rosenquist JN, Fowler JH, Christakis NA. Social network determinants of depression. Mol Psychiatry. 2010;16:273–281. PubMed ID: 20231839 doi:10.1038/mp.2010.13

  • 55.

    Simpkins SD, Shaefer DR, Price CD, Vest AE. Adolescent friendships, BMI, and physical activity: untangling selection and influence through longitudinal social network analysis. J Res Adolesc. 2013;23(3):537–549. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2012.00836.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 56.

    Huang Y, Shen C, Contractor NS. Distance matters: exploring proximity and homophily in virtual world networks. Decis Support Syst. 2013;55(4):969–977. doi:10.1016/j.dss.2013.01.006

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 57.

    Laniado D, Volkovich Y, Kappler K, Kaltenbrunner A. Gender homophily in online dyadic and triadic relationships. EPJ Data Sci. 2016;5:19. doi:10.1140/epjds/s13688-016-0080-6

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 58.

    Schoeppe S, Alley S, Van Lippevelde W, et al. Efficacy of interventions that use apps to improve diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviour: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2016;13(1):127. PubMed ID: 27927218 doi:10.1186/s12966-016-0454-y

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 59.

    Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Australia’s Health 2014. Canberra, Australia: AIHW; 2014.

  • 60.

    Kolotkin RL, Meter K, Williams GR. Quality of life and obesity. Obes Rev. 2001;2(4):219–229. PubMed ID: 12119993 doi:10.1046/j.1467-789X.2001.00040.x

  • 61.

    Fabricatore AN, Wadden TA. Psychological aspects of obesity. Clin Dermatol. 2014;22(4):332–337. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2004.01.006

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 62.

    Cunningham SA, Vaquera E, Maturo CC, Narayan KM. Is there evidence that friends influence body weight? A systematic review of empirical research. Soc Sci Med. 2012;75(7):1175–1183. PubMed ID: 22749656 doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.05.024

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 63.

    Zhang S, de la Haye K, Ji M, An R. Applications of social network analysis to obesity: a systematic review. Obes Rev. 2018;19(7):976–988. PubMed ID: 29676508 doi:10.1111/obr.12684

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 64.

    Maturo CC, Cunningham SA. Influence of friends on children’s physical activity: a review. Am J Public Health. 2013;103(7):e23–e38. PubMed ID: 23678914 doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301366

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 65.

    Leahey TM, Kumar R, Weinberg BM, Wing RR. Teammates and social influence affect weight loss outcomes in a team-based weight loss competition. Obesity. 2012;20(7):1413–1418. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.18

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 66.

    Bandura A. Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Educ Behav. 2004;31(2):143–164. PubMed ID: 15090118 doi:10.1177/1090198104263660

  • 67.

    Phua J. Participating in health issue-specific social networking sites to quit smoking: how does online social interconnectedness influence smoking cessation self-efficacy? J Commun. 2013;63(5):933–952. doi:10.1111/jcom.12054

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 68.

    Anderson ES, Winett RA, Wojcik JR, Williams DM. Social cognitive mediators of change in a group randomized nutrition and physical activity intervention: social support, self-efficacy, outcome expectations and self-regulation in the guide-to-health trial. J Health Psychol. 2010;15(1):21–32. PubMed ID: 20064881 doi:10.1177/1359105309342297

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 69.

    Stacey FG, James EL, Chapman K, Lubans DR. Social cognitive theory mediators of physical activity in a lifestyle program for cancer survivors and carers: findings from the ENRICH randomized controlled trial. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2016;13:49. PubMed ID: 27075417 doi:10.1186/s12966-016-0372-z

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 70.

    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Education and Work, Australia. Canberra, Australia: ABS;2017.

  • 71.

    Farrell L, Hollingsworth B, Propper C, Shields MA. The socioeconomic gradient in physical inactivity: evidence from one million adults in England. Soc Sci Med. 2014;123:55–63. PubMed ID: 25462605 doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.10.039

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 164 164 83
Full Text Views 26 26 7
PDF Downloads 12 12 4