Bad moods are con­ta­gious, say our aca­demics

Nuneaton Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - Ev­i­dence sug­gests mood may spread from per­son to per­son via a process known as so­cial con­ta­gion.

BAD moods are con­ta­gious, ac­cord­ing to re­search from aca­demics at War­wick Univer­sity.

A new study has found it’s not just colds peo­ple pick up from their friends but good and bad moods as well.

The study also con­firmed what sci­en­tists al­ready know – that de­pres­sion isn’t catch­ing.

Public health sta­tis­tics re­searcher Rob Eyre, who led the study, said: “We in­ves­ti­gated whether there is ev­i­dence for the in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents of mood (such as ap­petite, tired­ness and sleep) spread­ing through US ado­les­cent friend­ship net­works while ad­just­ing for con­found­ing by mod­el­ling the tran­si­tion prob­a­bil­i­ties of chang­ing mood state over time.

“Ev­i­dence sug­gests mood may spread from per­son to per­son via a process known as so­cial con­ta­gion.

“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.

“Clearly, a greater un­der­stand­ing of how changes in the mood of ado­les­cents are af­fected by the mood of their friends would be ben­e­fi­cial in in­form­ing in­ter­ven­tions tack­ling ado­les­cent de­pres­sion.”

Co-author, pro­fes­sor Frances Grif­fiths of War­wick Med­i­cal School, based at War­wick Univer­sity, said: “The re­sults found here can in­form public health pol­icy and the de­sign of in­ter­ven­tions against de­pres­sion in ado­les­cents.

“Sub-thresh­old lev­els of de­pres­sive symp­toms in ado­les­cents is an is­sue of great cur­rent con­cern as they have been found to be very com­mon, to cause a re­duced qual­ity of life and to lead to greater risk of de­pres­sion later on in life than hav­ing no symp­toms at all.

“Un­der­stand­ing that th­ese com­po­nents of mood can spread so­cially sug­gests that while the pri­mary tar­get of so­cial in­ter­ven­tions should be to in­crease friend­ships be­cause of its ben­e­fits in re­duc­ing of the risk of de­pres­sion, a sec­ondary aim could be to re­duce spread­ing of neg­a­tive mood.” The aca­demics looked at data on moods and friend­ship net­works of teenagers in USA schools.

Their paper, Spread­ing of Com­po­nents of Mood in Ado­les­cent So­cial Net­works, has been pub­lished in the jour­nal Royal So­ci­ety Open Sci­ence. The team’s find­ings show that mood does spread over friend­ship net­works, as do var­i­ous dif­fer­ent symp­toms of de­pres­sion such as help­less­ness and loss of in­ter­est.

How­ever they also found that they also found that the ef­fect from lower or worse mood friends was not strong enough to push the other friends into de­pres­sion.

Us­ing math­e­mat­i­cal mod­el­ling they found that hav­ing more friends who suf­fer worse moods is linked with be­ing more likely to have bad moods. They found the op­po­site ap­plied to teenagers who had a friends who are usu­ally in a good mood.

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