A 75-year Harvard study: The most important factor in human happiness

Have you ever heard of the Harvard study that ran for 75 years to assess what makes us happy? It’s a revolutionary study in psychology.

It followed the lives of two groups of men for over 75 years, and it now follows their Baby Boomer children to understand how childhood experience reaches across decades to affect health and wellbeing in middle age.

So what keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction and he lays it all bare in the Ted talk below.

So what is the number one factor in your happiness and wellbeing? According to Waldinger:

“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”

Yep, the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfilment overall in life is, basically, love.

Specifically, the study showed that having someone you can rely upon helps your nervous systems relax, helps your brain stay healthy and reduces emotional pain.

The data also clearly found that those who feel lonely are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier and die younger.

“It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge group friends, or if you’re in the perfect romantic relationship, it’s the quality of the relationships that counts – how much depth and honesty exists within them; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are.

This a very good reminder to prioritize authentic connection with others. Because the data is clear that, in the end, you could all have the money you’ve ever wanted, but without loving relationships, you won’t be happy.

For a deeper dive into the significance of this study and what it truly means, check out this video below.

NOW WATCH: Here are my 5 unconventional tips to living a happy life

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