Tracking a group of more than 700 men, from their late teenage years into their 80s, has allowed researchers in the US to make some fairly solid conclusions about what makes a good life. And while citing good relationships as key is not that surprising, the results do make you think about where you’re directing your energy.
The Harvard study of adult development began in 1938 and is the longest survey on happiness to date. Two very different groups of teenage boys were selected for the study: the first, students at Harvard University, many of whom went on to serve in World War I, and the second, some of the poorest inner-city kids from Boston who had incredibly disadvantaged backgrounds. The lives of these men have been tracked through questionnaires, home visits, various medical tests and conversations with relatives.
In this TEDx Talk, the fourth and current director of the study, Robert Waldinger, discusses what the researchers have learnt by monitoring the men over more than seven decades. The study showed that strong social connections are the most important determinant in our lives. Those in the study who had more good relationships experienced greater happiness, better health and lived longer.
The researchers also concluded that the quality of our close ties had a significant effect on the quality of our lives, with conflict being highly detrimental to health and happiness. Plus, good relationships are also beneficial for our brains, with memory function remaining stronger in those with more positive social connections.
So the next time you feel like cancelling a catch up with a friend, or not calling a relative, just remember that it’s these little things that can make a great difference in our lives. I know I’ll be putting more effort into my relationships having watched this TEDx Talk.