Happiness is contagious, research finds
By Karen Kaplan
December 05, 2008
A study of the relationships of nearly 5,000 people tracked for decades in the Framingham Heart Study shows that good cheer spreads through social networks of nearby family, friends and neighbors.
They say misery loves company, but the same may be even more true of happiness.
In a study published online today in the British Medical Journal, scientists from Harvard University and UC San Diego showed that happiness spreads readily through social networks of family members, friends and neighbors.
Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.
"Your emotional state depends not just on actions and choices that you make, but also on actions and choices of other people, many of which you don't even know," said Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and medical sociologist at Harvard who co-wrote the study.
They discovered that happy people in close geographic proximity were most effective in spreading their good cheer. They also found the happiest people were at the center of large social networks.
In many regards, they concluded, happiness is like a contagious disease. (THIS IS HOW THE CHURCH SHOULD BE).
This isn't the first evidence that emotions can spread like a virus. Studies have found that waiters who offer service with a smile are rewarded with bigger tips. On the flip side, having a mildly depressed roommate made college freshmen increasingly depressed themselves.
To assess happiness, the researchers relied on how much the volunteers said they agreed with four statements like "I was happy" and "I enjoyed life." The questions were asked three times between 1983 and 2003.
The results were striking:
A happy friend who lives within a half-mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself. If that same friend lives two miles away, his impact drops to 22%. Happy friends who are more distant have no discernible impact, according to the study.
Similarly, happy siblings make you 14% more likely to be happy yourself, but only if they live within one mile. Happy spouses provide an 8% boost -- if they live under the same roof. Next-door neighbors who are happy make you 34% more likely to be happy too, but no other neighbors have an effect, even if they live on the same block.
Michael's questions are ~
- Are you spreading the happiness or joy virus?
- Are you contagious in a positive way?
- How are you demonstrating Christ in your life? Remember Christ is about love?