New from The Harvard Study of Adult Development



Latest news from one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies on happiness ever undertaken; The Harvard Study of Adult Development


The quest for happiness is a universal human endeavour. However, defining and achieving this elusive state remains a complex task. What are the key determinants of happiness? The Harvard Study of Adult Development provides some insightful answers.

Regarded as one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies ever conducted, the Harvard Study began in Boston in 1938. Spanning an impressive 85 years, it has monitored three generations - grandparents, parents, and now their children, the so-called "baby boomers." Over 2000 individuals have been involved in this ground-breaking research.

Recently, Robert Waldinger, MD, the current director of this phenomenal study, along with associate director Marc Schulz, PhD, co-authored a book titled "The Good Life: Lessons From the World's Longest Scientific Study of Happiness," delving into the findings of this long-term investigation.

The study offers invaluable insight into the factors most strongly correlated with well-being and happiness. Let's delve into the key takeaways from their work.


Pillars of Happiness

Interestingly, the study's happiest participants shared two fundamental traits: maintaining good health and fostering loving relationships with others.

While the importance of good health is somewhat intuitive, the revelation that nurturing relationships was the most significant predictor of health and happiness in old age was more surprising. This finding has been echoed by other researchers, sparking further exploration into the physiological mechanisms underlying this benefit.


Beyond Professional Success

The study also revealed that professional success alone does not guarantee happiness. Although fulfilling, professional success needs to be complemented by personal connections to foster true satisfaction. The happiest individuals prioritized relationships and possessed higher levels of education and cultural awareness. These factors contributed to healthier lifestyle choices and better access to healthcare.


Social Competence

In our increasingly isolated world, loneliness is a significant challenge. Having someone to share our burdens with is critical, underscoring the need to nurture, strengthen, and expand our relationships. Maintaining social connections, much like physical fitness, requires continuous practice. Regular contact, shared activities, hobbies, and volunteer work can all help to sustain and broaden our social networks.


Fluctuating Happiness

Contrary to the perpetually positive lives portrayed on social media, real life is fraught with difficulties and challenges. Social skills contribute to resilience during these tough times.

Importantly, it's never too late to change one's life through new relationships and experiences. The study showed that even those who had given up on effecting changes in their lives experienced unexpected positive developments.

In conclusion, the Harvard Study of Adult Development underscores the importance of cultivating social skills and relationships for health, resilience, and the pursuit of happiness. It provides us with robust, evidence-based insights into the nature of happiness, offering valuable guidance for all those on the journey towards a happier, healthier life.


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