Intended for healthcare professionals


Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 05 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2338

Just what we need!

In the words of Buddhist philosopher, Dr Daisaku Ikeda,'Happiness
does not exist as an isolated quality, nor does it conform to a single
fixed pattern.'

I applaud the authors for taking the brave pill and challenging
current scientific parochalism. Despite the study's complexity and
shortcomings (which research doesn't?), it sheds important light on human
behaviour. I have observed the 'responses' to this paper, both in print
and in daily life, and they range from 'should we only associate with
happy people', 'should we ditch our moaning friends', 'are some people
sources of misery', 'what makes people happy', 'this will marginalise
unhappy people' etc.

However, the fact of the matter is that the authors and their
findings claim no such thing! What is clear from the study, is that
happiness is a dynamic phenomenon, and that happy people form clusters and
these clusters of happiness can influence others. Although, I am not a
sociologist, this seems rather positive and uplifting.

As to how happiness was assessed in this study, the two crucial
components of 'hope' and 'joy' were ascertained. It is important not to
mistake rapture for happiness. In that sense, humanity despite its
struggles with illness, war, poverty and myriad other sociopolitical
tragedies, can still generate and spread happiness.

Lastly, as an ex-researcher myself, it is heartening to see something
positive come out of the Framingham Heart Study, after decades of
cardiovascular anxiety, food fundamentalism and exercise gurus.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

30 October 2009
Sriram Vaidyanathan
Specialist Registrar Radiology
Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, G51 4TF