Bad moods are contagious, say our academics
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.