I like a lot of what Olivia Judson writes
whether it’s about microbiology, insects, carnivores, or today Social Medicine. Here’s a meaningful excerpt:
If your friend’s friend becomes happy, that increases the chance your friend will become happy — and that you will too. Conversely, if you become obese or depressed, you may inadvertently help your friends, and your friend’s friends, to become fat or gloomy. (Intriguingly, happiness and obesity seem to spread in different ways. Obesity spreads most easily between friends of the same sex who are emotionally close. Happiness spreads most readily between friends who live near each other: a happy friend on the same block makes more difference than a happy friend three miles away.)
To me this Social Medicine stuff feels like a stretch, but Olivia, like the optimist she is, is for it. So who am I to do my contrarian thing about the infectiousness of happiness. There’s never enough of it to go around, especially for too often gloomy wife.
I wish my wife spent some time reading Olivia. Here is an upbeat note in the last para of this week’s essay:
I draw a couple of conclusions from this. The first is that unless you are a hermit living entirely alone, your choices and wellbeing do not affect just you. The second, and more important, conclusion is that medicine isn’t simply about improving the health of an individual here and an individual there. It’s about the health of the whole society.
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