Social networks make you happier

Being part of a social network can help to spread happiness, according to US research.

Photograph: iStockphoto/muharrem öner
Photograph: iStockphoto/muharrem öner

For the study, the researchers analysed data on 5,124 adults, aged 21-70, collected in the Framingham Heart Study to find out if happiness can spread from person to person and if clusters of happiness form within social networks.

They then focused on 4,739 participants who were followed up from 1983-2003.

Overall, they found that social networks were correlated with happiness.

A person becomes 42 per cent happier if a friend who lives less than half a mile away becomes happy.

The researchers, from Harvard Medical School, in Boston, concluded that ‘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'.

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

BMJ Online 2008

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