Laughter is contagious, and if happiness was a disease, then that's a condition you'd definitely want to have.

That is why it's no surprise that happy friends help reduce the risk of depression.

Latest study by a team of international researchers put this thought to the test and came up with actual numbers that proved the benefits of having a happy circle of friends in a paper called Spreading of healthy mood in adolescent social networks, published online Aug. 19 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"We know social factors, for example living alone or having experienced abuse in childhood, influence whether someone becomes depressed," said Dr. Thomas House, a researcher from the University of Manchester. He emphasized the importance of social support, like having someone to talk to, in helping out patients recover from depression.

The researchers studied data from over 2,000 American high school students to find out how they influence each other's mood. The study found that in a group of friends, where depression doesn't spread through, happiness in one leads to happiness in another.

For teens who aren't going through depression and who have a happy set of friends, a good mood cuts down the chances of developing the condition over six to 12 months. As for teens already diagnosed with depression, a happy set of friends may double the chances of recovery, also within the six-to-12-month period.

The researchers, however, note that the study only shows a link between good mood among friends and a reduced risk of depression or increased recovery from it. Findings did not reveal a cause-and-effect relationship among these factors.

"Our study is slightly different as it looks at the effect of being friends with people on whether you are likely to develop or recover from being depressed," House explained.

House also said that more research needs to be done, but also emphasized that their study highlighted the significance of promoting friendship in reducing the burden caused by depression.

Photo: Claran McGulggan | Flickr

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