Good news everyone – happiness is infectious and can even help lift depression, a study has found.
High spirits spread through social contact with friends and family whereas depression cannot be passed on, researchers said.
The study suggests that having mentally healthy friends can help people to remain mentally health or even help someone recover from depression.
The results indicate that being friends with someone who is depressed does not put you at risk of becoming depressed yourself and it is likely to help the other person recover.
Researchers at Manchester University and Warwick University looked at more than 2,000 teenagers in a network of US high school students to see how their mood influenced each other.
The team found that while depression does not ‘spread’, having enough friends with healthy mood can halve the probability of it developing.
Happy friends can also double the chances of recovering from depression over a six to 12 month period.
Dr Thomas House, a senior lecturer in applied mathematics at Manchester University, said social factors played a key role in depression.
‘We know social factors, for example living alone or having experienced abuse in childhood, influences whether someone becomes depressed,’ he said.
‘We also know that social support is important for recovery from depression, for example having people to talk to.
‘Our study is slightly different as it looks at the effect of being friends with people on whether you are likely to develop or recover from being depressed.’
He said being surrounded by friends with healthy moods had a ‘big effect’ on depression and that developing a stronger social network would be an effective way to treat the condition.
Promoting friendship between adolescents would reduce cases as having depressed friends did not put others at risk,’ he said.
‘As a society, if we enable friendships to develop among adolescents, for example by providing youth clubs, each adolescent is more likely to have enough friends with healthy mood to have a protective effect.
‘This would reduce the prevalence of depression.’