Image: J Fowler and N Christakis/New England Journal of Medicine/BMJ
Research by medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis and colleague at the Harvard Medical School in Boston revealed how oher people's happiness, depression, and obesity can affect you:
Recent research shows that our moods are far more strongly influenced by those around us than we tend to think. Not only that, we are also beholden to the moods of friends of friends, and of friends of friends of friends - people three degrees of separation away from us who we have never met, but whose disposition can pass through our social network like a virus.
Indeed, it is becoming clear that a whole range of phenomena are transmitted through networks of friends in ways that are not entirely understood: happiness and depression, obesity, drinking and smoking habits, ill-health, the inclination to turn out and vote in elections, a taste for certain music or food, a preference for online privacy, even the tendency to attempt or think about suicide. They ripple through networks "like pebbles thrown into a pond", says Nicholas Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who has pioneered much of the new work.
At first sight, the idea that we can catch the moods, habits and state of health not only of those around us, but also those we do not even know seems alarming. It implies that rather than being in charge of where we are going in life, we are little more than back-seat drivers, since most social influence operates at a subconscious level.
Previously on Neatorama: 14 Habits That Make You Fat (which also noted the study above)