Dec 10, 2008

Study: Strangers Make You Happy; Happiness is Contagious

Strangers Make You Happy and Happiness is ContagiousA study finds that your family and loved ones are not the only people that make you happy. Their friends' friends' friends can give you joy as well. Also, the research reveals that happiness is as contagious as laughter. Are they different anyway?

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Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study said, "Your happiness depends not just on your choices and actions, but also on the choices and actions of people you don't even know who are one, two and three degrees removed from you."

"There's kind of an emotional quiet riot that occurs and takes on a life of its own, that people themselves may be unaware of. Emotions have a collective existence — they are not just an individual phenomenon."

James H. Fowler, the co-author of the research and an associate professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, said, "if your friend's friend's friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket."

"The researchers analyzed information on the happiness of 4,739 people and their connections with several thousand others — spouses, relatives, close friends, neighbors and co-workers — from 1983 to 2003," New York Times reported.

Jealousy Comes In

Dr. Christakis added, "There may be some people who become unhappy when their friends become happy, but we found that more people become happy over all."

Jealousy comes to the picture at times.

Professor John T. Cacioppo, director of the University of Chicago's Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, who was not involved in the study commented, "I might be jealous of the fact that they (his friends) won the lottery, but they're in such a good mood that I walk away feeling happier without even being aware that they were the site for my happiness."

Seeing Them in Person is Important

"A next-door neighbor's joy increased one’s chance of being happy by 34 percent, but a neighbor down the block had no effect. A friend living half a mile away was good for a 42 percent bounce, but the effect was almost half that for a friend two miles away. A friend in a different community altogether can win an Oscar without making you feel better."--New York Times

"You have to see them and be in physical and temporal proximity," Dr. Christakis said.
**In their past studies, the authors also found out that obesity and quitting smoking are also socially contagious.

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Study: Strangers Make You Happy; Happiness is Contagious