Recent research has provided evidence that mood can spread over social networks via social contagion, but that, in seeming contradiction to this, depression does not. Here, we investigate whether there is evidence for the individual components of mood (such as appetite, tiredness and sleep) spreading through US adolescent friendship networks while adjusting for confounding by modelling the transition probabilities of changing mood state over time. We find that having more friends with worse mood is associated with a higher probability of an adolescent worsening in mood and a lower probability of improving, and vice versa for friends with better mood, for the overwhelming majority of mood components. We also show, however, that this effect is not strong enough in the negative direction to lead to a significant increase in depression incidence, helping to resolve the seeming contradictory nature of existing research. Our conclusions, therefore, link in to current policy discussions on the importance of subthreshold levels of depressive symptoms and could help inform interventions against depression in high schools.
Robert W. Eyre, Thomas House, Edward M. Hill, Frances E. Griffiths. (2017)
Spreading of components of mood in adolescent social networks.
Royal Society Open Science, 4: 170336. doi:10.1098/rsos.170336.