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September 26, 2017

Happiness and sadness really are contagious, study suggests

New research shows having friends in good or bad moods can affect the way you feel

Happiness – and sadness – really can be contagious, a new study says.

Research published in Royal Society Open Science suggests that hanging out with people in better moods tends to push adolescents to better moods themselves, and the same is the case with kids in worst moods. Being around bad attitude doesn't tend to push adolescents to depression, however, the study found.

The study looked at 2,194 junior high and high school students, and found that kids who associated with kids in bad moods tended to feel worse after periods of six months or year later, while kids with happier friends tended to feel better.

The authors concluded that "for US adolescents, the greater number of worse mood friends they have the more likely they are to get worse in mood and the less likely they are to get better, and vice versa for better mood friends."

The researchers were careful to point out the distinction between low moods and clinical depression.

Both good and bad moods are contagious, authors said, "but while better mood is contagious enough to push individuals over the boundary from depressed to not depressed, worse mood is not contagious enough to push individuals into becoming depressed."

Lead author Robert Eyre, a doctoral student at the University of Warwick, explained to that while some symptoms related to depression – such as loss of interest and helplessness – followed the same pattern of social contagion, it isn’t something they believe has broad health implications.

Instead, Eyre told the website it’s more likely a “normal empathetic response that we’re all familiar with, and something we recognize by common sense."

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