Researchers have found that happiness is surprisingly contagious.
Psychologist James H. Fowler studied the data of 5,000 people over 20 years and found that happiness benefits other people through three degrees and that the effects last for a year. He says: “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends' happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness.”
Happiness as a collective phenomenon
Fowler says his research shows that we should think of happiness as a collective phenomenon. Researchers are increasingly turning their attention to happiness in communities and institutions. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says that “by creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.” Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the VIA Institute on Character are studying positive institutions.
Happiness and public policy
Does what we’re learning about happiness have implications for public policy? Some social scientists are arguing that it should. Perhaps the data and tools coming out of positive psychology can help us understand how to relieve suffering and promote the greatest good.