We Are Influenced By The Mood Of Friends, Study Finds

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Whether friends’ moods can spread throughout social networks was the focus of recent research at the University of Warwick.

The investigators’ findings suggest mood does spread through teen friendship networks, and so do a variety of depressive symptoms, such as a sense of helplessness, or loss of interest.

However, the social network influence was not powerful enough to push individuals into a state of clinical depression.

The mathematical model used by the researchers indicated that having friends with worse moods is associated with a greater chance of experiencing low moods oneself. Conversely, friends in upbeat moods spread positive effects.

“Evidence suggests mood may spread from person to person via a process known as social contagion,” said lead researcher Rob Eyre. "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."

The study implies that behaviors for improving mood, such as stress reduction, exercise, healthy diet, and sound sleep can benefit a teen’s friends as well as him or herself. It also suggests that friends do not put their network contacts at risk for depression, so giving support to those who are feeling down is still recommended.

Further, the researchers emphasize the importance of being attentive to adolescents with depressive symptoms just shy of a clinical diagnosis.

“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,” says professor Frances Griffiths, professor at the Warwick Medical School.

Source: Warwick
Photo credit: Mark Harrington

 
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