Friday, May 8, 2009

Meet Global Greek Nicholas A. Christakis - one of the World's 100 Most Influential People for 2009

Photo credit: Paul Schnaittacher
Recently named by Time Magazine as one of the World's 100 most influential people, Dr Nicholas Christakis is one of our Global Greeks!

A Greek American physician and sociologist at Harvard University, Nicholas Christakis in his latest study suggests that Happiness is Contagious.
In view of all the dreadful things in life that are contagious, it is wonderful to hear that something so special can also be contagious. It would definitely have to be a Greek, with that unique attitude to life and living, to work on something so intangible but so essential to our well-being as happiness and to come up with such a great theory... thank goodness for Dr Christakis who has come out and said it - Happiness is Contagious!!

Enough misery, if we want to be happy let's surround ourselves with happy people!!

According to Dr Christakis, "a person's happiness is related to the happiness of their friends, their friends' friends, and their friends' friends' friends—that is, to people well beyond their social horizon. We found that happy people tend to be located in the center of their social networks and to be located in large clusters of other happy people. And we found that each additional happy friend increases a person's probability of being happy by about 9%."

In introducing Nicholas Christakis as one of it's TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World, TIME says the following:
Social scientists used to have a straightforward, if tongue-in-cheek, answer to the question of how to become happy: Surround yourself with people who are uglier, poorer and shorter than you are — and who are unhappily married and have annoying kids. You will compare yourself with these people, and the contrast will cheer you up.
Nicholas Christakis, a physician and sociologist at Harvard University, challenges this idea. Using data from a study that tracked about 5,000 people over 20 years, he suggests that happiness, like the flu, can spread from person to person. When people who are close to us, both in terms of social ties (friends or relatives) and physical proximity, become happier, we do too.

For example, when a person who lives within a mile of a good friend becomes happier, the probability that this person's good friend will also become happier increases 15%. More surprising is that the effect can transcend direct links and reach a third degree of separation: when a friend of a friend becomes happier, we become happier, even when we don't know that third person directly... 
(To read the entire article in TIME - click here)

Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is a Greek American, born in the USA 47 years ago. A fluent Greek speaker, he collaborates closely with the National Kapodistrian University of Athens and visits Greece on a regular basis, both for professional and personal reasons as his father lives on the island of Crete for six months of the year.

Married with three children, Dr Christakis is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health, health care, and longevity. He is a Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and an Attending Physician (with an emphasis on palliative medicine) in the Department of Medicine at the Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As of July, 2009, he will be the Master of Pforzheimer House in Harvard College.

Dr. Christakis' current work is principally concerned with health and social networks. This work takes seriously the contention that because people are inter-connected, their health is inter-connected. This work explores two aspects of social networks: the process by which they form ("connection") and the way they operate to influence behavior ("contagion"). Related work examines the health benefits of marriage and the consequences of spousal illness and widowhood. Other ongoing investigations consider the effects of neighborhoods on people's health, the bio demographic determinants of longevity, and the genetic bases for human behaviors. His past work has examined the accuracy and role of prognosis in medicine and ways of improving end-of-life care.

Along with his long-time collaborator, James Fowler, Dr. Christakis has authored a general-audience book on social networks that will appear in late 2009: 

Connected: The Surprising Power of Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

To read more about Dr Nicholas Christakis - Click here

Dr Nicholas Christakis - Ta Nea Newspaper (in Greek)

Updated: Listen to Dr Nicholas Christakis speak on the Hidden Influence of Social Networks - February 2010


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