Friday, December 5, 2008

Spread the Happiness

When Rachel Dratch so brilliantly personified the wet-blanket character Debbie Downer on Saturday Night Live, we laughed in hilarious recognition of the party-poops in our own lives and their bummer effect on us. Now researchers have unearthed data illuminating just how sprawling a shadow our little Debbies cast.
A team of researchers from Harvard University and the University of California at San Diego recently undertook an expedition through the massive Framingham Study, a project started by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in 1948 to find common causes of cardiovascular disease. The Framingham participants provided enough data that their friends and relatives could be traced to multiple degrees of separation.
Harvard’s Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis and UCSD’s James H. Fowler, co-authors of the current study, previously mined this data and demonstrated obesity and smoking ran in groups of friends and relatives. On this pass through Framingham, they closed-in on 12,067 study volunteers connected through 53,228 ties. A sample of their conclusions about happiness:

If you have a happy…Your chances of being happier are…
Friend within a half-mile42%
Next-door neighbor34%
Friend two miles away 22%
Sibling within one mile14%

You can read more about this study at the LA Times web site. Of course, sharing it with our own Debbies may not be wise. They bring us a lot of laughter, too.
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