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New Study Says Divorce Can Be Contagious

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Forget about the flu that has been going around – there is something else that is contagious and could put your marriage in jeopardy.

As CBS 2's Tracee Carrasco reported, a study from Brown University suggested that divorce is contagious, and the divorce of a friend or loved-one increases your chances of getting divorced, too.

The study, conducted in Framingham, Mass., found that 75 percent of participants were more likely to get divorced if a friend was divorced, and 33 percent were more likely to end their marriage even if a friend of a friend got divorced.

Researchers called the phenomenon a "social contagion" – the spread of information, attitudes and behaviors through friends, family and social networks.

While psychotherapist Talia Filippelli does not necessarily agree that divorce itself is contagious, but she said emotions can be.

"Emotions are contagious, and if you have somebody really unhappy in their relationship around you all the time, you may start to be a little bit more critical of your own relationship," Filippelli said.

Married people who spoke to CBS 2 were not so sure.

"If they ain't making it as a couple, why should that influence me and my wife?" said Kim Yancey.

"I think it's the maturity level based on whether or not you're going to be influenced by your friends," said Maria Corpuz.

Filippelli said there are ways to avoid catching the divorce bug.

"You don't want to be associating your friends' situation with yours too much and making too many connections, because more than likely, the connections are being imagined or created," she said. "They may not necessarily be realistic."

There was a little bit of good news with the study. The divorce of someone three degrees removed -- a friend of a friend of a friend -- will likely not have any significant impact on the likelihood that a couple will divorce.

The study collected data from thousands of people over three decades.

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