News - Catching happiness
by Life Positive
Happiness is contagious, spreading among friends, neighbours, siblings and spouses like the flu, according to a large study that for the first time shows how emotion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other.
The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbour.
“You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience,” says Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University who helped conduct the study published online by BMJ, a British medical journal. “But it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious.” While unhappiness can also spread from person to person, the “infectiousness” of that emotion appears to be far weaker.
When one person in the network became happy, the chances that a friend, sibling, spouse or next-door neighbour would become happy increased between eight per cent and 34 per cent, the researchers found. The effect continued through three degrees of separation, although it dropped progressively from about 15 per cent to 10 per cent to about 6 per cent before disappearing.
“Our work shows that whether a friend’s friend is happy has more influence than a raise. So at a time when we’re facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, ‘Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy,’ ” says Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study.
The researchers and others speculated that the emotion may be important on an evolutionary level by helping people cooperate. Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally; they get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group.
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