Geluk is besmettelijk

Mark Twain zei ooit: ‘The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.’ Maar ‘t blijkt ook andersom te werken: we worden er zelf gelukkiger van als mensen in onze omgeving gelukkig zijn. Dat blijkt uit een uitvoerige studie die gisteren in de British Journal of Medicine is verschenen. Geluk verspreidt zich kennelijk als een virus, we worden er allemaal door aangestoken, zelfs als de gelukkige niet heel nabij is. Het leukste nieuws: geluk is besmettelijker dan verdriet. Smile!

The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person’s husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor. [..] One person’s happiness can affect another’s for as much as a year, the researchers found, and while unhappiness can also spread from person to person, the “infectiousness” of that emotion appears to be far weaker.

Previous studies have documented the common experience that one person’s emotions can influence another’s — laughter can trigger guffaws in others; seeing someone smile can momentarily lift one’s spirits. But the new study is the first to find that happiness can spread across groups for an extended period.

When one person in the network became happy, the chances that a friend, sibling, spouse or next-door neighbor would become happy increased between 8 percent and 34 percent, the researchers found. The effect continued through three degrees of separation, although it dropped progressively from about 15 percent to 10 percent to about 6 percent before disappearing.
The Washingtion Post, 5 december 2008

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