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The importance of social connections in combating compulsive exercise among group-exercise participants: a network analysis

Megan S. Patterson (Department of Health Behavior, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)
Christina Amo (Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Allison N. Francis (Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Katie M. Heinrich (Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Tyler Prochnow (Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Jocelyn Hunyadi (Department of Kinesiology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA)
Sydney Miller (Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 25 July 2022

Issue publication date: 26 September 2022

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to use social network analysis (SNA) to determine whether compulsive exercise (CE) was related to social connections and network position among participants of group-exercise programs.

Design/methodology/approach

Members from two group-exercise programs (Gym 1: n = 103; Gym 2: n = 56) completed an online survey measuring their social connections within the program, CE, depressive symptoms and sense of belonging. Network position was calculated for each person based on network centrality scores (i.e. closeness, eigenvector centrality). Linear network autocorrelation models determined whether respondents reported similar CE as their network ties (i.e., network effects) and whether network position was related to CE in these networks.

Findings

Eigenvector centrality (i.e., being connected to popular/important people within the network; Gym 1: parameter estimate [PE] = 0.51, p < 0.01, Gym 2: PE = 0.39, p = 0.02) and network effects (i.e. having similar CE scores as direct network ties; Gym 1: PE = 0.07, p < 0.01, Gym 2: PE = 0.19, p < 0.01) were related to CE among participants in these programs.

Originality/value

This study builds on existing SNA research suggesting the importance of social connections and network position on CE, and, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, is the first to explore these effects among group-exercise participants. This study describes how the social environment can impact, both positively and negatively, someone’s susceptibility for CE and supports fostering social connections within group-exercise programs as a way to potentially combat harmful CE among its participants.

Keywords

Citation

Patterson, M.S., Amo, C., Francis, A.N., Heinrich, K.M., Prochnow, T., Hunyadi, J. and Miller, S. (2022), "The importance of social connections in combating compulsive exercise among group-exercise participants: a network analysis", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 406-417. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-03-2022-0016

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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