Something happened to our outlooks when we moved to the Five Sisters last summer. The sense of community seems to make people happier and we literally felt like it was quite contagious. Now there is compelling scientific evidence to show that having happy neighbors is good for you.
Yesterday I came across a recent article in the British Medical Journal that analyzed data from a long term study of 5,124 people from Framingham, Mass. While a lot of previous studies have looked at links between happiness and genetics and socioeconomic factors, this study looked at how peoples’ social connections influence happiness.
And they found that the happiness of your next door neighbors is a stronger predictor of your own happiness than any other significant relationships. Incredibly neighbors have a bigger effect than spouses!
The study concluded that:
– If a friend who lives within a mile of you becomes happy, it increases your chances of being happy by 25%
– if your coresident spouse becomes happy, your chances increase by 8%
– if your sibling living within a mile becomes happy your chances increase by 14%
– if your coworkers are happy, it has no effect on your happiness.
– if your NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR becomes happy, your chances increase by (drum roll please….) a whopping 34%!
So that’s right. If you have a grumpy coworker, it might be a nice thing to try and brighten their day, but you won’t benefit from your efforts very much. On the other hand, if your neighbor is feeling down in the dumps, it’s clearly worth it to cheer them up!
All that said, in spite of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence, I plan to continue being accommodating and cheerful with my wife, Yolanda– just to be safe.