I’ve written other posts about how we are all connected – that our happiness is integrally linked with others. Interestingly, there is some recent research to support that happiness spreads like an epidemic. Research by Christakis and Fowler published in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal (and cited in Time magazine in the 12/22/08 issue) supports this relationship.
In their study, these researchers tracked the emotional states of 5,000 people and the more than 50,000 social ties that they shared. They found that happiness was contagious. If a study participant’s friend was happy, the participant was 15% more likely to be happy. If a friend’s friend of the participant was happy, the original participant was still 10% more likely to be happy. Amazingly, if the friend’s friend was unknown to the original participant, the participant still received a 5.6% lift in their happiness.
The effect on happiness is even greater if the individuals are living within close proximity of one another. For instance, a friend living within one mile of an individual can provide a 25% increase in happiness to that individual and a neighbor’s happiness can give a 34% happiness increase.
What does this information mean for you? First, try to be around happy people – you are likely to catch it too. Second, know that your happiness can influence that of many people. So, do what you can to improve your own state of happiness (e.g., get good sleep, exercise, stay socially active, pursue hobbies) because this is one “infection” that you want to pass along to as many others as you can!