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Wrong crowd 'bad for your health'

Hanging out with the wrong crowd can be terminally bad for your health, according to a new US study.

Researchers found that it massively increases the chances of being shot dead in a particularly rough part of Chicago.

People's social networks were a better indicator of their chances of being murdered than race, age, gender, poverty, or gang affiliation.

"Risk factors like race and poverty are not the predictors they have been assumed to be," said sociologist Dr Andrew Papachristos, from Yale University. "It's who you hang out with that gets you into trouble. It's tragic, but not random."

The research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that crime, like disease, follows certain patterns.

Gun homicide and police records from 2006 to 2011 were studied for residents living in a six-square mile region of Chicago with one of the city's worst murder rates.

Just 6% of the population were found to be involved in 70% of the murders. Nearly everyone in this group had some contact with the criminal justice or public health systems.

Those among the 6% also had a nine-fold increased risk of being shot dead.

"Generally, you can't catch a bullet from just anyone," said Dr Papachristos. "Your relationship with the people involved matters. It's not unlike needle sharing or unprotected sex in the spread of HIV."

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