Happiness & lonliness are both contagious

Happiness & lonliness are both contagious

Loneliness, like happiness, can be contagious, says research out today that shows how feeling lonely can make others lonely, too.

The study by John Cacioppo, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, builds on recent research showing that happiness is contagious and spreads through social networks.

Cacioppo worked with the two researchers who did the earlier happiness research: Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School, and James Fowler, associate professor of political science at the University of California-San Diego.

“When you feel lonely, you have more negative interactions than non-lonely people,” says Cacioppo, who directs the University of Chicago’s Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. “If you’re in a more negative mood, you’re more likely to interact with someone else in a more negative way, and that person is more likely to interact in a negative way.”

But “the effect of contagiousness stops significantly after three degrees of separation,” he says.

The researchers found that next-door neighbors who experienced an increase of one day of loneliness a week prompted an increase in loneliness among neighbors who were close friends.

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