Depression Isn’t Contagious, But Happiness Is

N2013_04_01_045SMALLNx86xdrewssexybody-3By Kirsten Cowart

Having friends who struggle with depression will not affect your mental health. According to research from the University of Warwick, depression isn’t contagious, but happiness is.  

Sometimes, because of the stigma of mental health, people tend to avoid those who struggle with depression. On the other hand, sometimes people who struggle with depression will avoid spending time with people, because they don’t want to “pull them down.”

According to a recent study, having happy friends can actually help you recover from depression. Being around happy people can even help you avoid becoming depressed.  

Teens And Mood

Teenage Girls Hanging Out in Fast Food Restaurant --- Image by © Kevin Dodge/CorbisThe study was focused around a group of teens in U.S. high schools and how they influenced each other’s mood. The researchers used a mathematical model to see if depression spread from one friend to another.

The head of social science and systems in health, professor Frances Griffiths from Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick said that: “Depression is a major public health concern worldwide. But the good news is we’ve found that a healthy mood amongst friends is linked with a significantly reduced risk of developing and increased chance of recovering from depression.

“Our results offer implications for improving adolescent mood. In particular, they suggest the hypothesis that encouraging friendship networks between adolescents could reduce both the incidence and prevalence of depression among teenagers.”

This Isn’t Just An Isolated Case

Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health data, the researchers found more than 2,000 students to study. They observed how the mood of one student would affect the others, tracking it similar to how you would observe an infectious disease.  

Students were placed into two categories; one was for students who had symptoms of low mood or depression and the other was those who were found to be happy or had a healthy mood.  

Depression Is Not Contagious

The researchers found that depression doesn’t spread from friend to friend. In fact, they found that if the low person was surrounded by happy friends, they had double the chances of recovering from depression over the next 6-12 months.  

According to the mathematical data model used by the researchers, if adolescents have 5 or more friends that are mentally healthy friends, they will have half of the chances of becoming depressed compared to those who have no mentally healthy friends.  

Happiness Is Contagious

The more the merrier. If a teen has 10 mentally healthy friends, they will double their chances of recovering from depression than those who only have 3 healthy friends.  

Lead author Edward Hill said: “In the context of depression, this is a very large effect size. Changing risk by a factor of two is unusual.

“Our results suggest that promotion of any friendship between adolescents can reduce depression since having depressed friends does not put them at risk, but having healthy friends is both protective and curative.

Friendship Is Key

DiverseTeensSocial factors such as experiencing abuse as a child or living alone are already known to be linked to depression. It is also pretty common knowledge that if someone struggling with depression has someone that he/she feels comfortable talking to, then he/she will have an easier time recovering.  

Another author from the research, Dr. Thomas House said: “It could be that having a stronger social network is an effective way to treat depression. More work needs to be done, but it may be that we could significantly reduce the burden of depression through cheap, low-risk social interventions.

“As a society, if we enable friendships to develop among adolescents (for example 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.”

What have you found that encourages healthy friendships among teens and young people? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

Source: University of Warwick. “Having friends: Happiness spreads but depression doesn’t.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2015. <>.lleader_34 (1)

Kirsten Campbell
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Kirsten Campbell

Kirsten Cowart is a writer and researcher that has worked in the spiritual, mental health and medical fields.Kirsten enjoys studying and experiencing the benefits of yoga, meditation, nutrition, herbalism, organic gardening and alternative health.She worked hard in 2014 losing over 40 lbs. and has since maintained a healthy lifestyle.Follow her to learn more about her journey on Twitter, Facebook & Youtube!
Kirsten Campbell
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