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Teenagers catch moods from their FRIENDS – and low spirits are the most contagious, study reveals

It’s a mystery that has baffled many parents for years, but now we may finally know why teenagers tend to be so grumpy.

Research has revealed that teenagers can actually catch moods from their friends.

And while both positive and negative moods are ‘contagious’, bad moods are more potent, according to the team.

The researchers hope the findings could be used to provide emotional support for young people, leading to improved mental health.

Research have revealed that teenagers can actually catch moods from their friends, with negative emotions more contagious than positive moods (stock image)

Research have revealed that teenagers can actually catch moods from their friends, with negative emotions more contagious than positive moods (stock image)

Research have revealed that teenagers can actually catch moods from their friends, with negative emotions more contagious than positive moods (stock image)

In the study, researchers from Oxford and Birmingham universities tried to tackle the mystery of why teens tend to be moody.

Dr Per Block of Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science said: ‘Our study shows conclusively that individuals are affected by how others around them are feeling.

‘Mood is contagious, and though both positive and negative moods are ‘caught’, bad moods are more potent.’

The results revealed that the teens' moods became more similar to people they spent time with, with bad moods more infectious than good (stock image)

The results revealed that the teens' moods became more similar to people they spent time with, with bad moods more infectious than good (stock image)

The results revealed that the teens’ moods became more similar to people they spent time with, with bad moods more infectious than good (stock image)

In the study, the team analysed 79 teens aged 15-19 on a short residential classical music tour.

Each participant recorded their daily moods and social interactions, allowing the researchers to assess how company may play a role in mood.

Dr Block said: ‘What makes our study special is that, by having people in a group with few external influences, experiencing the same environment and spending their time together, we could see who interacted with whom and how that made others feel.’

Good moods are contagious too, although negative emotions were found to be more infectious (stock image)

Good moods are contagious too, although negative emotions were found to be more infectious (stock image)

Good moods are contagious too, although negative emotions were found to be more infectious (stock image)

The results revealed that the teens’ moods became more similar to people they spent time with, with bad moods more infectious than good.

However, the study found no evidence that teens feeling low withdrew.

‘We saw, first, the interaction, and then how mood became more similar,’ Dr Block explained.

‘As mood changes frequently and is influenced by various environmental factors that differ between individuals, many studies find collecting comprehensive data difficult. But because our participants were living together, we overcame that challenge too.’

The researchers hope their findings could be used to provide better emotional support to teens.

Dr Block added: ‘We hope it is a step towards understanding why people fall into prolonged low states, the social factors that determine emotional wellbeing in adolescents, and, in the long run, how it may be possible to provide emotional support leading to improved mental health.’

CHILDHOOD BULLYING IS LINKED TO MANY LONG-TERM NEGATIVE MENTAL HEALTH OUTCOMES

Bullying can affect everyone; those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. 

Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. 

It is important to talk to children to determine whether bullying, or something else, is a concern.

Children who are bullied

Children who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. 

Children who are bullied are more likely to experience:

Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. 

These issues may persist into adulthood.

Health complaints 

Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardised test scores—and school participation. 

They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. 

In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Children who bully others

Childrens who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood. 

Children who bully are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalise property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Bystanders

Children who witness bullying are more likely to:

  • Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
  • Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Miss or skip school

The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide

Media reports often link bullying with suicide. However, most youth who are bullied do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors.

Although children who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. 

Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history. 

Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including black and minority ethnic, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

This risk can be increased further when these children are not supported by parents, peers, and schools.  

Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.

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