The happiness paradox: your friends are happier than you

Johan Bollen*, Bruno Gonçalves, Ingrid van de Leemput, Guangchen Ruan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Most individuals in social networks experience a so-called Friendship Paradox: they are less popular than their friends on average. This effect may explain recent findings that widespread social network media use leads to reduced happiness. However the relation between popularity and happiness is poorly understood. A Friendship paradox does not necessarily imply a Happiness paradox where most individuals are less happy than their friends. Here we report the first direct observation of a significant Happiness Paradox in a large-scale online social network of 39,110 Twitter users. Our results reveal that popular individuals are indeed happier and that a majority of individuals experience a significant Happiness paradox. The magnitude of the latter effect is shaped by complex interactions between individual popularity, happiness, and the fact that users strongly cluster by similar level of happiness. Our results indicate that the topology of online social networks, combined with how happiness is distributed in some populations, may be associated with significant psycho-social effects.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages10
JournalEPJ Data Science
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • data science
  • friendship paradox
  • natural language processing
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media
  • social network
  • subjective well-being

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