This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
What makes people happier: money or having
happy friends and neighbors? Researchers from Harvard University and the
University of California, San Diego, have found an answer as part of a study.
Christakis and James Fowler based the study on the emotional health of almost
five thousand people. They used information gathered over a period of twenty years, until two thousand
three, in the Framingham Heart Study. That study began sixty years ago in
Framingham, Massachusetts, to learn more about the risks of heart attack and
new study found that friends of happy people had a greater chance of being
happy themselves. And the smaller the physical distance between friends, the
larger the effect they had on each other's happiness.
For example, a person was
twenty percent more likely to feel happy if a friend living within one and a
half kilometers was also happy. Having a happy neighbor who lived next door
increased an individual's chance of being happy by thirty-four percent. The
effects of friends' happiness lasted for up to a year.
researchers found that happiness really is contagious. Sadness also spread among
friends, but not as much as happiness.
People removed by as much as three degrees of separation
still had an effect on a person's happiness. Three degrees of separation means
the friend of a friend of a friend.
study showed that having an extra five thousand dollars increased a person's
chances of becoming happier by about two percent. But the researchers found
that the influence of a friend of a friend of a friend can be greater than that.
Another finding is that people who are married or work
together do not have as much of an effect on happiness as friends do.
The findings appeared in the British
Medical Journal. The National Institute on Aging in the United States helped
pay for the study.
The study is described as the first to
demonstrate the indirect spread of happiness. In other words, that your emotions
can be affected by someone you do not directly know.
studies by the two researchers described the effects of social networks on
obesity and efforts to stop smoking. The new study shows that happiness spreads
through social networks like an emotional virus -- a virus people would be
happy to catch.
the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Brianna Blake. Transcripts,
MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.