women trying to achieve the perfect figure should re-examine their friendships.
Those with overweight friends could find themselves more worried about their weight, as a study suggests women can "catch" neuroses.
These women should surround themselves with healthy friends, creating less pressure to lose weight.
Research into female relationships by a Canadian university found links between a woman's perceived weight and body confidence, and that of her closest friends.
The study found that women's actual size and shape had less bearing on how they felt than the comments and attitudes of those surrounding them.
People with friends who persistently complained about being fat, losing weight and taking exercise were more likely to report feeling badly about themselves.
Researchers at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick asked women to rate how often they confided about weight-loss, exercise, appearance and diet.
They assessed the participants' body images and attitudes to losing weight. Results showed that the more women felt under pressure to be thin, the more likely that they were to have body issues, but these body issues appeared to come about, regardless of the women's weight, size or shape. They appeared to be based on their network of acquaintances, and the prevalence of body issues within it.
Discussions focusing on exercise, described as "body talk", were linked to lower body dissatisfaction, the study found.
Women believed that the "body-checking behaviour" of their friends was similar to their own, sharing neuroses and negativity about their figure. Dr Louise Wasylkiw and Molly Williamson, who led the study, said: "Our research demonstrates that friends influence each other through at least three processes: perceived pressure to be thin; body-related talk; and perceptions.
"Although these perceptions are somewhat grounded in reality, ie, close to the truth, they are more influential than reality."