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?

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Interesting. :0)

N B.
Nancy B3 years ago


M Quann
M Q3 years ago

Thank you.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Plant our happiness

Mark Bill
Past Member 4 years ago

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.

Judy Apelis
Judy A5 years ago

Thank you

s s.
Katie S5 years ago

Thanks for writing this article

Donna Ferguson
Donna F5 years ago

it's enjoyable to spread happiness!

Jenna Summers
Jennifer B5 years ago

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

Don Swanz
Don Swanz5 years ago


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