The World Health Organization lists happiness as a component of health. The present study was done to see if happiness is contagious by personal contact with other people who are happy. Social networks were studied in the Framingham Study of 4739 people from 1983 to 2003. The people studied lived close to each other, had many social inter-relationships and were interviewed, regularly.
Clusters of happy and unhappy people were seen in the overall social network. Happiness was found to spread up to three degrees of separation, just as do obesity and smoking. (Three degrees of separation would be, ‘a friend of a friend of a friend,’ for example.) “A friend who lives within a mile and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25%.” The spread of happiness does not extend to coworkers, possibly because of something different in workplace dynamics.
“We take happiness to consist of positive affective emotions.” Happy people tend to be connected. The spread of happiness requires that the involved people live close to each other. The happiness from contact with a happy person drops off in time.
The chance of a person becoming obese and the chance of quitting smoking are other lifestyle factors which have been shown to spread from one person to another.
CONCLUSION: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.” Happiness may be more contagious (9%) than is unhappiness (7%).
NOTE: Read about the attempt to include happiness in economic goals.
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