When the results of a recent study are matched with surveys of Hong Kong youth, it is difficult not to wonder whether Hong Kong teenagers are making each other unhappy rather than spreading happiness around. The study draws on data collected from 4,700 participants over 20 years. It was published in the British Medical Journal early this month by Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School. The study suggests the extent of our happiness is closely related to how happy our friends are. But a recent survey of 594 secondary students in Hong Kong found that they scored 6.62 out of 10 in thinking 'my peers are happier than me' and only 6.09 out of 10 on the question of their own happiness. Professor Christakis' study suggests that happiness is a two-way street. It found that having a happy friend makes you, on average, 9 per cent more likely to feel happy. This effect can ripple as far as three degrees of separation, meaning your happiness can have an effect on the friends of your friends' friends. It applies also to online networks, such as Facebook and MySpace, but to a lesser extent, the study found. It is your closest friends who exercise the strongest happiness factor. A happy spouse, sibling or close friend can increase your happiness by as much as 15 per cent, while, on the downside, a sullen, miserable friend can reduce your happiness index by 7 per cent. The study also found that happier people tend to have more friends and have more solid networks than gloomy friends. This may explain why - as another recent survey of Hong Kong teenagers found - only 27 per cent of teenagers would choose to talk to their friends when they had a problem. Around a quarter said they would act as if nothing had happened. Only 23 per cent of respondents would choose to talk to parents and teachers. 'Even if I was upset, I wouldn't show it because I don't want my friends and family to worry,' says Young Post reader Jackie Lee, a Form Five student. Terry Tse, a Form Six student, added: 'I was under a lot of pressure last year because of the public exams. All my classmates had trouble staying cheerful and we didn't know what to do.' Meanwhile, Young Post reader Sarah Loh was taking a more proactive approach. 'I've heard about the British Medical Journal study and am planning a few gatherings for an effective cross-infection of happiness.' Perhaps parents can do their bit, too. Stop nagging over the festive holiday. Let the kids have some fun. A few hours of computer games won't do much harm. Afterwards, they might be able to spread a little happiness around. As for online networkers, perhaps it's time one of you came up with rival applications to Facebook's Friends for Sale - Happy Friends for Auction and Grumpy Friends to Give Away.