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Science proves good and bad moods are contagious

If you’re hanging out with a friend who is in a particularly good or bad mood, you may notice that their attitude tends to rub off on you. That feeling is now supported by research, as a new study led by a team from the University of Warwick has found that both good and bad moods can be picked up from friends – but luckily, depression can’t.

The researchers looked at data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which contains info on the moods and friendship networks of U.S. adolescents in schools. Their findings show that moods spread over friendship networks, as do some symptoms of depression such as loss of interest and helplessness. On the bright side, they also found that these effects weren’t strong enough to cause other friends to suffer from depression as well.

Results showed that having more friends who suffer from bad moods leads to a higher likelihood of an individual also experiencing bad moods with a decreased probability of improving. The opposite effect occurred with adolescents who had more positive social networks.

“Evidence suggests mood may spread from person to person via a process known as social contagion,” explains Rob Eyre, the lead researcher of the study. “Previous studies have found social support and befriending to be beneficial to mood disorders in adolescents while recent experiments suggest that an individual’s emotional state can be affected by exposure to the emotional expressions of social contacts.”

About 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. With so many people affected by this condition, this study emphasizes the importance of understanding the impacts adolescents have on each other when they’re exhibiting depressive symptoms. The study also shows that there is more to depression than simply being in a bad mood.

The researchers suggest evidence-based strategies for improving mood, such as exercise, sleeping well, and managing stress.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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