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I spy joy in happiness clusters

Happiness Clusters

Happiness Clusters

I always believed happiness was contagious.  Now, like so many other things I feel innately but tend to doubt without external verification; I can say I know it to be true.

We now have scientific proof that happiness spreads.  James Fowler (UCSD) and Nicholas Christakis (Harvard) recently released the results of a 20-year study showing the “dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network.”

They analyzed data collected from nearly 5,000 people over the course of 20 years and found that happiness, like health, is a collective phenomenon.

If I’m happy, a friend of mine living less than half a mile from me is 42% more likely to be happy because of it. The increased likelihood of happiness drops to 22% if that friend lives within two miles from me.  However, if you’re my next door neighbor, your increased probability of happiness is 34%.

Amazing, yes?   There’s more.  This effect, although somewhat diminished, reaches out to three degrees of separation. Increased probability of happiness for the friend of a friend is 15.3% and 9.8% for the friend of a friend of a friend. The diagrams in this post show the ripple effect of happiness.


Examination of this same group of people shows that having an extra $5,000 increased a person’s chances of becoming happier by 2%.  But if a friend of a friend of your friend is happy, it can increase your chances of becoming happier by 9.8%.  So, someone you don’t know and have never met can have a greater influence on your spirits than thousands of dollars in your pocket.

Wow again.

Combine this with the knowledge that being happy greatly improves the likelihood of being healthy and we now have more than ample reason to make choices that support our joy.  Our happiness is not only good for us, it benefits the friend of the friend of our friend.

I don’t know about you, but that thought alone puts a smile on my face.


1 Liv { 07.15.09 at 2:02 pm }

I am enjoying your website. I have posted it to my friends on Facebook asking them where they find joy. 🙂

2 ispyjoy { 07.15.09 at 4:01 pm }

Thanks, Liv!

3 I spy joy in liquid chocolate « { 09.02.09 at 7:14 am }

[…] Esther and Jerry go on to say that when we are happy, everyone around us benefits (which is now scientifically proven by Fowler and Christakis). […]

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