It is not viruses alone that are contagious – it appears that happiness can also be quite proliferous!
A group of researchers has analyzed data gathered from close to 5,000 Americans who were monitored between 1983 and 2003, in addition to that of thousands of their close ones – spouse, friends, neighbours, relatives and co-workers. The researchers also asked participants whether they agreed or disagreed with statements on whether they enjoyed life, were hopeful about the future, were happy, and were under the impression they were as good as other people.
The analysis of this data reveals that happiness does appear to be contagious. However, close physical proximity plays a very important role in the actual transmission of happiness. Consequently, a person would have a 40% greater chance of being happy when a friend who resides less than half a mile from their home exudes happiness. However, this positive influence diminishes when the two friends live further apart. A similar effect also occurs when a person has a life partner, parents or neighbours who are happy. Moreover, it also appears that the relation between people’s levels of happiness can extend up to three degrees of separation, that is to say, to the friend of a friend of a friend.
The good news is that even though sadness appears to transmit in a similar fashion, it does so less consistently than happiness does. It is believed that these findings reflect our innate tendency to select the circumstances that increase our chances of being happy.
It is difficult to draw concrete conclusions from this study. But in our never-ending quest for happiness, why not surround ourselves with friends and loved ones, and get to know our happy neighbours. The pursuit of happiness is a great reason to play our favourite tunes, do activities that make us happy, and to take care of our general wellbeing!