Is happiness catching? Two social scientists say yes.

Keith Ferrazzi, author of Who’s Got Your Back and Never Eat Lunch Alone, recently tweeted:

Over time, we will be within 10 % of income of our closest friends. Similar for weight, health.

A story in this weekend’s New York Times magazine, headlined Is Happiness Catching?, went deeper than 140 characters on the influence of our friends. The story about social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler says:

By analyzing the Framingham data, Christakis and Fowler say, they have for the first time found some solid basis for a potentially powerful theory in epidemiology: that good behaviors — like quitting smoking or staying slender or being happy — pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses. The Framingham participants, the data suggested, influenced one another’s health just by socializing. And the same was true of bad behaviors — clusters of friends appeared to “infect” each other with obesity, unhappiness and smoking. Staying healthy isn’t just a matter of your genes and your diet, it seems. Good health is also a product, in part, of your sheer proximity to other healthy people.

I’ve blogged before on the health effects of friendship. While some scientists quoted in the Times article question the causation of friends influencing each other’s health, the researchers make some powerful arguments.

Do you think your health and behaviors are influenced by your friends? Would you consider changing who you socialize with because of peer pressure? Do you make conscious choices about who you spend time with?

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Categories: health and well being

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3 replies

  1. I read this article too, and while some of the science seemed ‘funky’, I think some people are leaders and others followers. Ultimately, don’t we tend to hang out w/ people who make us feel good (or better) about ourselves than those who can be judgmental (even in their seemingly good intentions) and self-righteous. Some of us are ‘proppers’ and some of us are ‘sinkers’. (CN’s always seemed like a ‘propper’ to me).

    We spend time with those who inspire us in different ways, creatively, health-wise, intellectually, but don’t always want to adopt their habits (drinking, smoking, running marathons, performance art) although sometimes, conversely it gives us permission to indulge, or guilt ourselves into beer behavior b/c of what we might learn/gain from such associations (I do).

    If I thought I could get a good promotion / raise, I might take up distance-running with a colleague!

    Ideally, I like to have a balance of staid ‘good influencers’ and nutty, creative ‘bad kids’ 😉

  2. Behavior is absolutely influenced by friends. I like to hang out with good-hearted, thoughtful people who make me laugh. My dad loved a saying that I think he saw on a bumper sticker in the 1970s: “If you want to soar with the eagles, don’t hang around with the turkeys.” Dad was an achiever.

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