Happiness is ‘Infectious’

Believe it or not, happiness is “infectious” and can “ripple” through friends, neighbours and family members, a new study has suggested.

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Researchers have found that happiness is not just an individual experience or choice, but is dependent on happiness of others to whom individuals are connected either directly or indirectly, and requires close proximity to spread.

According to them, “Changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.” In fact, the researchers, led by Nicholas Christakis of the Harvard Medical School, have based their findings on an analysis of data collected in the Framingham Heart Study, the British Medical Journal reported. In the Framingham Heart Study, 5,124 adults aged 21-70 were recruited and followed between 1971 and 2003, to examine various aspects of their life and health. All the participants were asked to identify their relatives, “close friends,” place of residence, and place of work to ensure they could be contacted every two to four years for follow-up.

The researchers found 53,228 social ties between the 5,124 participants and a total of 12,067 people. They focused on 4,739 people followed from 1983 to ’03 and found a person’s proximity to happy people, specifically partners, siblings and neighbours, could make them happy too. They also found that clusters of happy and unhappy people were visible in the networks and the effect lasted for three degrees of separation — meaning one person benefited from the happiness of their friends’ friends. “Most important from our perspective is the recognition that people are embedded in social networks and that the health and wellbeing of one person affects the health and wellbeing of others.

“This fundamental fact of existence provides a fundamental conceptual justification for the speciality of public health. Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals,” the researchers concluded.

Sources: The Times Of India

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