Since 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men over 75 years. This rare and enlightening study has gathered information about these men’s work, health, home life and more from the time their were teenagers to now, when many are well into their 80s.
After three-quarters of a century and tens of thousands of pages of collected data, one main insight rises to the top.
Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
Three primary lessons about relationships came from this incredible study:
Social connections are really good for us
People who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are emotionally happier, psychically healthier and live longer than those without deep social connections. People who are lonely and isolated are not as happy, suffer from declining health as they age, their brain function decreases and they live shorter lives.
Quality not quantity counts
The quality of our relationships do matter. It is possible to have many friends or be in a committed relationship yet still feel alone. Having even a few people we connect with, can trust and confide in, who support and understand us plays a large part in how happy and healthy we are, and ultimately, how long we live.
Good relationships protect our bodies AND our brains
For people in their later years, being in a solid, ‘securely attached’ relationship is a big boost to retaining memory, critical thinking and overall brain sharpness. Even couples who engage in their fair share of bickering reaped the rewards of a secure, committed relationship if they felt they could always count on their partner. As for our physical wellbeing, couples in their 80s in happy relationships reported feeling upbeat even when in physical pain. Those with unhappy partnerships had physical pain magnified by their emotional pain.
Over the 75 years of the Harvard study, the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships with family, friends and in their community. Despite the hard work and nurturing all relationships take, they are a key to a happy, healthy, long life.
Said Mark Twain as he looked back on his life: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
May your days be filled with gratitude, happy, healthy relationships and good things.
To read more about the Harvard study, click here.