Surprising Things That Are Contagious

We don't only catch germs!

By the physicians of The Doctors Updated: Jan 2, 2019 10:46:59 IST
Surprising Things That  Are Contagious

Germs aren't the only things you have to worry about "catching." Emotions are also infectious, according to research on social contagions: moods and behaviours that spread from person to person. We like to think we're in control of our well-being, but this research shows that traits and choices of our friends-and even our friends' friends-have a powerful effect on ours. Here are some unexpected infections and our advice on how to inoculate yourself.


On the other hand, positive feelings also rub off, according to a seminal study of almost 5000 people by researchers at Harvard and the University of California. When you feel happy, a friend who lives within 1.5 kilometres is 25 percent more likely to feel happy, and neighbours are 34 percent more likely to feel happy. The same data found that an extra $5000 [₹3,14,000] increased happiness by about two percent, a much lower impact than what's gained by having a joyful friend of a friend (a second-degree connection), which can boost your own good feelings by 10 percent.


The brain is hardwired to detect stress in other people, such as increases in breathing rate. This triggers a cascade of our own stress hormones, Heidi Hanna, executive coach and author of Stressaholic, told us. And you don't need to be in the same room to catch someone else's stress, which is transmittable via e-mail, texts, and social media. (Curt responses could signal someone is under a tight deadline, for example.) When you feel stressed, take breaks and get enough sleep-that's not selfish. It benefits everyone around you.

Restaurant orders

Diners are happier when they order entrées that are similar nutritionally to those of their companions, found research from the University of Illinois, USA. If you're watching your waistline, place your order first so you're not tempted by your pals' cravings.

Negative thinking

First year students randomly paired with roommates highly prone to brooding were likely to "catch" their negative-thinking style after only three months, found a study from the University of Notre Dame, USA. Recognize that other people may influence how you respond to life's challenges.

Quitting smoking

The same research team found that when one person quit smoking, friends and family members became 36 percent less likely to smoke. The ripple effect: Even very casual acquaintances of the quitter became 20 percent less likely to light up.

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