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More PsychNotes: Physical Health

February 22, 2017       

Happy Friends Can Improve Your Health
by Monica A. Frank, PhD


Clearly, the research shows that happier people are healthier. It makes sense that if you are happier, you are more likely to take better care of yourself which increases health outcomes. But this fact can be discouraging for people who are not happy and can create an ever-downward spiral: unhappiness contributes to poor health and poor health further decreases happiness.

However, there is some good news for unhappy people: did you know that having a happy partner can improve your health? This is true even if you are not happy yourself (Chopik and O'Brien, 2017). In addition, this effect may not be limited to just having a happy partner but also can be a result of being around happier people in general. The effect, though, may be stronger with a partner due to the frequency of contact.

Why this occurs may be due to the influence of the people with whom you associate. If you are around happier people you are more likely to engage in the activities and behaviors that contribute to health. For example, if a happy friend takes daily walks you are more likely to accompany your friend on those walks. If you have lunch with a happy person who eats a salad you are more likely to eat healthy as well.

So, if you want to be healthier, surround yourself with happy people.

Chopik, W.J. and O'Brien, E. (2017). Happy You, Healthy Me? Having a Happy Partner Is Independently Associated With Better Health in Oneself. Health Psychology, 36, 21–30. DOI:10.1037/hea0000432

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