Last Friday, I wrote a blog entry on an MSNBC report of recently published in the British Medical Journal on the contagion of happiness.  A few Methodist University colleagues have sent me links to other articles reporting on that study.  Dr. Steven Brey of the Philosophy and Religion Department saw a New York Times article, and librarian Arleen Fields found a CNN report.  There were a few interesting details in these studies.  For example, the NYT was more specific about the effects of distance: 

“A next-door neighbor’s joy increased one’s chance of being happy by 34 percent, but a neighbor down the block had no effect. A friend living half a mile away was good for a 42 percent bounce, but the effect was almost half that for a friend two miles away.” 

The only way to explain such a steep distance gradient is that face-to-face contact is necessary.  It must be that, like the flu, happiness can’t be caught over the phone or internet.   The NYT adds that only people in our social networks who have recently become happy will boost our happiness.  Those perpetually cheery people you’ve known a long time are old news and no longer give your mood a boost. The CNN report mentioned that size of one’s social network is also important.  Someone at the hub of a large network of people (meaning not just that one relates to lots of others but those others relate to one another, too) are more likely to become happy.   I guess that means Happiness Network it’s a good idea to introduce your friends to each other and do things as a group.

Finally, the CNN article had a nifty graphic of  the social network used in the study.  I’ve put their graphic to the right.  Yellow dots are happy people, blue are sad individuals, and green represents those in between.  It’s interesting that there are some large yellow clusters.  It looks like blue people sometimes cluster, but their groups are smaller and many of them seem scattered thoughout the yellow and green networks.  It’s a nice way to represent the study’s findings.