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Book and Media Reviews
March 21, 2012

Social Networks and Health: Models, Methods, and Applications

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Health care and technology consultant, Chicago, Illinois (

JAMA. 2012;307(11):1203. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.309

Humans are social animals, and social networks have influenced human history since the dawn of time. Until recently, information exchange via various networks was slow and limited to diffusion through family, friends, and local communities. Today, information goes viral and spreads like electronic wildfire. Although everyone is part of a social network, each person is only vaguely aware of his or her friends' friends and the ensuing global network to which all are connected.

The study of social networks is only just now emerging. I can recall only a minor discussion in freshman biology about biological systems and social network theory. What I learned from that elementary discussion on bees and ants was that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Certainly the typical high school experience is an in vivo study of social networks, in which popularity is often the goal. What most high school students do not realize is that influence is a more potent tool than mere popularity. It is safe to say there is much to learn about the complexity of social networks. Social Networks and Health explores the current concepts behind social networks and how peer relationships influence another person's behavior above and beyond his or her own inclination.

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