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The surprising maths that makes comparing yourself to your friends dangerous

Jan 17, 2014

The surprising maths that makes comparing yourself to your friends dangerousIf you've ever felt like your friends' lives are going better than yours, don't despair: it could just be a quirk of mathematics.

There's an odd fact that mathematicians have known for years: on average, your friends have more friends than you do. The reason is simpler than it seems. Most people have a fairly small number of friends, but a few people have loads.If you're friends with one of these social butterflies, it makes your friends seem more popular on average - and because they have so many friends, you're more likely to be friends with them than anyone else.

This creates the illusion that you're less popular than you really are. But a new study shows it doesn't stop there. Researchers Hang-Hyun Jo and Young-Ho Eom have found that there's enough of a statistical connection between having lots of friends and being happy or rich that these things are affected too. So don't worry if it seems like your friends are richer, happier or more popular than you: they're probably thinking the same thing.

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