How Medical Data Revealed Secret to Health and Happiness

Wired : The Buddy System

A revolution in the science of social networks began with a stash of old papers found in a storeroom in Framingham, Massachusetts. They were the personal records of 5,124 male and female subjects from the Framingham Heart Study. Christakis and Fowler realized that this obsolete list of references could be transformed into a detailed map of human relationships.

Here some of the highlight findings:

  • Having an obese spouse raised the risk of becoming obese by 37 percent. If a friend became obese, the risk skyrocketed by 171 percent
  • On Facebook, the average user has approximately 110 "friends"
  • When smokers quit, their friends were 36 percent more likely to follow suit
  • Each happy friend increased an individual’s probability of being happy by 9 percent. An extra $5,000 in income raised it only 2 percent
  • Each student had 6.6 close friends in their online network
  • We end up staying in touch with more acquaintances. But that doesn’t mean we have more friends
  • The impact of networks disappears abruptly after three degrees of separation
  • People, in other words, need people: We are the glue holding ourselves together

Their Book: : ‘Connected – The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives’

What makes us human — for good and bad — is our social nature. Nowhere is this complex, wonderful, and sometimes dark part of us more clearly revealed than in Connected.

In a social world exploding with new ways to interact, Connected is a user’s guide for ourselves in the 21st century.



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    • max
    • October 21st, 2009

    interesting read. I highly recommend reading "Stumbling Upon Happiness" by Daniel Guilbert to look at how we are commonly mistaken about what will make us happy. You can also see his presentation on for something shorter. Talking about health, although it is proven that obesity is indeed "contagious" among friends (regardless of their geographical proximity), there is a general misunderstanding about how happiness can supposedly cure diseases. This was well exposed by this lady: Max Armbruster

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