What Makes A Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Happiness Study - Summary

Dec 24, 2015 -

The Harvard study of adult development began in 1938 and tracked two groups of men totaling 724 for 75 years. One group included sophomores from Harvard who ended up serving in WWII shortly after graduating. Another group consisted of Boston boys in the poorest and most disadvantaged areas. Taking populations from two differing spectrum of privilege helps to control the effects that has on living a good and long life. Over the course of 75 years, many of the individuals in the study became lawyers, factory workers, bricklayers, doctors and one was President of the United States. Not only did the Harvard study interview these individuals in their very own living rooms, but they drew blood samples, scanned brains, and talked to their parents.

What are the most important life goals? Of the recently surveyed millennials, 80% said that becoming rich was an important goal. In that same population, 50% believed it was important to become famous. We are constantly being reinforced by society to work hard and achieve greater to have a good life. But, is that truly what will give you a good life?

The Harvard study generated tens of thousands of pages of research. The lessons learned were not about wealth, fame, or working harder. In the 75 year old study, it is good relationships that keep us healthier.

1) Social connections are good for us and loneliness is not. Those who are more socially connected to family, community, and friends are physically healthier. People who are more isolated find that they are less happy and health decline earlier.

2) It is the quality of the relationships and not quantity that is important. Turns out that those living in conflict without much affection are worse off then getting divorced. People in good warm relationships stayed happier even when they experienced more physical pain.

3) Good relationships protect your brains as well. Those in securely attached relationship with people you could count on stay sharper longer. Relationships don't need to be smooth sailing all the time, as long as they felt that they could count on each other, that's what matters.

This is not rocket science or anything novel. So then why do we ignore this? We are humans and human nature is wanting quick fixes. Relationships are hard work, not glamours, and is an on-going life journey. People who fared the best over their lives are also those who leaned into relationships with family, friends and community.

The good life is built with good relationships. 

Copyright © 2007- StockKevin. Disclaimer. All Rights Reserved.