The Science of Happiness. Register Today
   
 

Sick with Happiness

By Alex Dixon | December 1, 2008 | 0 comments

Happiness may be infectious, a new study suggests, spreading like a cold in winter.

The study, published in December in the medical journal BMJ, examined more than 4,700 people who had been tracked from 1983 to 2003. Over those 20 years, researchers periodically gave participants questionnaires that assessed their emotional well-being. They also gave these questionnaires to the participants’ close contacts—spouses, friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers—creating a network of more than 50,000 people.

When someone in the network became happy, he raised his spouse’s odds of becoming happy by eight percent, a sibling’s odds by 14 percent, and a next door neighbor’s odds by 34 percent. Happiness did not appear to spread among co-workers, a finding the researchers attribute to the sometimes competitive nature of work relationships.

Danny Hellman

What’s more, a person’s happiness could also spread across three degrees of separation. In other words, it not only spread to friends and family, but to people those friends and families knew, and to people those contacts knew as well, who the original person may not have known at all.

However, the study’s authors found no happiness effect for people who lived more than a mile apart; sometimes, it didn’t even spread to a neighbor on the same block, suggesting the waves of happiness weren’t caused by socioeconomic factors, such as living in a good neighborhood or making a similar income. These findings suggested to the authors that “the spread of happiness may depend more on frequent social contact than deep social connections.”

Tracker Pixel for Entry
 
 
 
About The Author

Alex Dixon is a Greater Good editorial assistant.

  

Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

Donate
 
  
 
blog comments powered by Disqus
 

Most...

  
  

Greater Good Events

Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff
International House, UC Berkeley campus
November 7, 2014


Self-Compassion & the Cultivation of Happiness with Kristin Neff

This day-long seminar led by self-compassion pioneer Kristin Neff, will offer strategies for cultivating self-compassion, boosting happiness, and reducing stress in yourself and others.


» ALL EVENTS
 
 

Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!

» TAKE A QUIZ
 

Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.

Watch
 

Greater Good Resources

 
 
» MORE STUDIES
 
 
» MORE ORGS
 

Book of the Week

Whistling Vivaldi By Claude M. Steele Steele offers studies and stories that show how stereotypes can affect group members' lives in subtle but powerful ways, especially when it comes to academic performance.

» READ MORE
 
Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.

Sponsors

The Quality of Life Foundation logo Special thanks to

The Quality of Life Foundation for its support of the Greater Good Science Center

 
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement