The happiness factor

Blue is sad; yellow is happy; green is in between. Note the clusters of similar colors. Click the image for a large size.

Mom always told me to be careful of the crowd I run with. Turns out she was right—in ways she could not have known.

James Fowler of UC San Diego and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard Medical School published a study in the British Medical Journal showing that happiness spreads far and wide through a social network—not just from person to person but even to people up to three degrees removed.

Described in a UCSD press release, the study showed that happiness definitely loves company. As the network graph shows, happy people tend to cluster together. In fact, “every happy friend increases your own chance of being happy by 9 percent. Each unhappy friend decreases it by 7 percent. Happiness, the researchers found, spreads in a social network up to three degrees of separation: You are 15 percent more likely to be happy if directly connected to a happy person; 10 percent if it’s the friend of a friend who is happy; and 6 percent if it’s the friend of a friend of a friend.

So, if you’re not happy, maybe you’re connected to the wrong crowd, or, maybe you are partly responsible for the unhappy people around you.

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