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Study: Happiness IS Contagious

Study: Happiness IS Contagious

It looks like Bobby McFerrin was right when he sang, “don’t worry be happy.” According to a study published in Statistics in Medicine and conducted at Harvard University and the University of California, happiness is contagious.

That’s good news for friends, neighbors, and spouses of happy people.  The study found that when a person becomes happy, a friend who lives close to the happy person has a 25 percent higher likelihood of becoming happy too. The spouse of the happy person has an 8 percent increased chance of happiness, and the next-door neighbors have a 34 percent chance. But there’s more.

The researchers conducted a review of other studies, including the ongoing Framingham Heart Study and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Upon analysis the scientists not only found that certain relationships are most impacted by happiness, they propose a theory called the “social contagion theory” of ”three degrees of influence“ This is where the study results get exciting. Lead researcher and professor at Harvard Medical School, Nicholas Christakis, says that “Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness.” While that may seem obvious, he adds that the effect goes well beyond the people with whom we have direct contact. When one person becomes happy, the effect can spread by three degrees, which includes friends of friends.

The researchers assessed people’s responses to survey questions, including:  “How often during the past week would you say:  ‘I enjoyed life? I felt hopeful about the future?’”

Of course, happiness may come in waves and, as a result, there are challenges linked to studying happiness. But, when you consider the belief that there are only 6 degrees of separation linking people, and that we can influence 3 degrees of those people, it is quite a remarkable notion that if we make an effort to be truly happy (no, not the fake stuff!) then we can have a profound effect on those around us.

What do you think?  Do you use Care2 as a way to spread happiness to others?

Subscribe to my free e-magazine Worlds Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow me on my site, Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.

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Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and 17-time book author and board-certified doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim, Weekend Wonder Detox, Healing Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and her new book The Probiotic Promise. Subscribe to her free e-magazine World's Healthiest News at to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.


+ add your own
12:15AM PDT on Mar 9, 2015

Worried with getting close to essay producing output deadlines?
Awesome work out guys which you are sharing with us, great efforts you have shown there.

10:12AM PST on Dec 12, 2013

Thank you

11:31PM PST on Dec 7, 2013

Thanks for writing this article

5:46PM PST on Dec 4, 2013

it's enjoyable to spread happiness!

1:32AM PST on Nov 29, 2013

So do the next door neighbors actually have to interact with their neighbor to "catch" the happiness? Or is just happiness by osmosis?

1:33PM PST on Nov 22, 2013


PLEASE take action. "THANK YOU!" Don and I CAN! :-))

Any day now, the FDA could approve the first GMO animal for food: the AquaBounty salmon. You’ll have no idea you’re buying this genetically modified fish, since labeling of these products are not required. We have to stop this.

Will you join me on this petition? It only takes a moment:

4:46AM PST on Nov 22, 2013

I wonder why a happy person's neighbour is more likely to be affected than their friend? And a friend more than a partner?

10:38PM PST on Nov 20, 2013

Happiness is certainly contagious. This also implies that you interact with one other or a group. Mostly, I find happiness within a group - especially my keep-fit group !

There are different types of happiness which reflect how you think and how that shows on your behaviour - towards yourself and others... This sums it up perfectly :

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny."

5:35AM PST on Nov 19, 2013


4:37AM PST on Nov 19, 2013

I try to share it when I have it!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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