Getting the Most From Social Networks: a Conversation with Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis [Free Podcast]


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Your boss’s wife’s brother can make you fat, even if you’ve never met her. Your neighbor’s happiness may have more impact on your happiness than having a happy husband. And if a guy 3 blocks away is suffering from Coronavirus Anxiety, or if his wife is depressed about not seeing her friends it will affect you!

I am pleased to welcome Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH, is an internist and social scientist who conducts research on social factors that affect health, health care, and longevity. He is Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School; and Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. He is the Master of Pforzheimer House in Harvard College.

Dr. Christakis’ lab is currently focused on the relationship between social networks and health. People are inter-connected, and so their health is inter-connected. This research engages two types of phenomena: the social, mathematical, and biological rules governing how social networks form (“connection”) and the biological and social implications of how they operate to influence thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (“contagion”). Other ongoing investigations in the lab consider the effects of neighborhoods on people’s health, the biodemographic determinants of longevity, the widowhood effect (“dying of a broken heart”), and the genetic bases for human behaviors.

Along with his long-time collaborator, James Fowler, Dr. Christakis has authored a general-audience book on social networks: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, which has been translated into nearly twenty foreign languages.

In situations such as the current COVID19 pandemic these effects can be multiplied. So keeping yourself healthy and in a positive, upbeat, supportive state of mind is really a social duty as well as a personal one.

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