75-Year Harvard Study Reveals The Secret To Happiness

Some might argue that happiness is a subjective state of mind – a relative concept that is hard to define or measure in objective terms. Yet a Harvard study that commenced over seventy-five years ago has distilled some solid insights into what makes a good life.

The study is the most comprehensive longitudinal study to date. It has followed 724 individuals from when they were teenage undergrads up to, in some cases, their eighties or nineties. This gave researchers the golden opportunity to access a large pool of data and, more importantly, study how people perceive satisfaction and contentment in life as they mature and grow older. The study has been mostly revealing because the findings point at a common denominator on what makes people happy: the ultimate secret to happiness, if you like.

If you had to ask millienials about what they think they need to be happy in life, most would tell you that it is money or recognition – in other words conventional and material benchmarks for success. Unsurprisingly, if you ask the same question to people from different walks of life and who have tasted and experienced life over six decades, you are bound to get quite a different answer. And the answer is simple really – nurture and maintain healthy relationships.

In this inspirational talk, Robert Waldinger (the fourth director of the study since its inception) explains what he discovered. People who had developed healthy bonds and networks of social support throughout their lives are seen to be the happiest and healthiest later on in life. Sadly, the opposite is also true and loneliness or stormy relationships result in lack of contentment and health issues as one grows older.

Waldinger had also some very simple practical pointers to share: Replace screen time with family time. Spend more quality time with your loved ones. Call and say hello to that family member who you haven’t spoke to in years. Invest more time and energy to develop and maintain healthy and loving relationships. These tips will help you to live the happy life you’ve always wanted.

Featured image by Manish Bansal, available under a Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution-Sharealike license.