This is how “we” look for sociophysics: the way people socialised based on their feeling of happiness/unhappiness. Stunning, is’t it?
The study shows dynamic spread of happiness in the Framingham social network. Graphs show largest component of friends, spouses, and siblings at exam 6 (centred on year 1996, showing 1181 individuals) and exam 7 (year 2000, showing 1020 individuals). Each node represents one person (circles are female, squares are male). Lines between nodes indicate relationship (black for siblings, red for friends and spouses). Node colour denotes mean happiness of ego and all directly connected (distance 1) alters, with blue shades indicating least happy and yellow shades indicating most happy (shades of green are intermediate)
Clusters of happy and unhappy people are visible in the network, and the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future.
Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25% (95% confidence interval 1% to 57%). Similar effects are seen in coresident spouses (8%, 0.2% to 16%), siblings who live within a mile (14%, 1% to 28%), and next door neighbours (34%, 7% to 70%). Effects are not seen between coworkers. The effect decays with time and with geographical separation.
Conclusion:. People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.
It’s interesting to apply it to a personal network and see how it works. Any observations on your side?
if happines is an equation, maybe there is a certain point where everything change for All! I’m thinking about the Critic Mass theory, what percentage do we need to obtain global changes? at what percentage we are?
good point! I am sure there is some crutical mass…but I am too bad at maths to count it…hopefully some clever readred will do!
That’s a very interesting study, thanks a lot, Axinia. I live very close to Framingham, MA, and have some friends who live there 🙂
This study reminded me of a very sad fact about America: people here mostly live in private houses, even in big cities like Boston. That makes distances between people much bigger – mostly, you can’t just walk over to you friend’s house, it’s 15 to 30 minutes drive now. I have many friends in the area, but none of them live within one mile.
The good news is that situation changed a lot since 2000 – thanks to virtual networks. We can stay connected with our friends and share happiness even if we don’t have an opportunity to see them as often as we would like to (of course, there is no substitute to face-to-face conversation, but still – it helps a lot). People can switch countries every other year (I have some friends who do this because of their professional or personal life), but still be able to share their emotional life on a very personal level through their blogs. In this sense I don’t feel like physical distances mean much anymore.
Even better – you don’t need to know people personally to share happiness with them. I’ve never seen you, but I do become happier by reading your blog or looking at your photographs (or reading “Schastlivyj Dom”, for example). Then, I can share this happiness through my blog – in a different way – and over hundred other people read it, and so on. There are truly no limits for sharing now – there is just our choice of what to share.
Sounds a little complicated to me Axinia although I am sure the study has merit. I prefer the simple model of seven or eight circles that we are all surrounded by, with the inner circles and outer circles. There is no doubt that the positive feelings of our friends affect our happiness.