The secret of happiness? Happy friends, say scientists
If ‘be happy’ is one of your New Year’s resolutions, surround yourself with upbeat people – moods are contagious and ‘spread like ripples through friends’ says a new study.
How grumpy and happy people feel can be influenced not only by the state of mind of those closest to us, but also by friends of friends that we have never even met, like ripples from ‘pebbles thrown into a pond’, claim scientists.
Professor James Fowler of the University of California suggests that each happy connection increases the chance of a person’s happiness by 9%.
However, the effect works both ways, meaning that every Victor Meldrew – or each ‘unhappy connection’ – decreases the chance of happiness by 7%.
Moods – good or bad – tend to travel more freely in same-sex groups, according to the report in New Scientist magazine.
The team led by Dr Nicholas Christakis, a sociologist at Harvard Medical School, and including Professor Fowler, made their conclusions after analysing 53,228 social connections between 5,124 individuals over time.
They found that a happy-go-lucky friend increased the odds of someone being happy by 15% – but that a friend of a friend boosted the chance by about 10%, and a friend of a friend of a friend by about 6%.
The theory is not without its sceptics, with some asking: ‘How can a person you’ve never met have a direct influence on your mood?’
But Dr Christakis puts it down to the ‘ripple effect’, adding: ‘Most people will not be surprised that people with more friends are happier, but what really matters is whether those friends are happy.’
Time to ditch those moaning minnies!