80-Year Old Harvard Study Proves Healthy Relationships Help Us Live Longer and Happier Lives


Harvard’s Grant and Glueck study began tracking the physical and emotion health in this longitudinal study during the Great Depression with the hopes of revealing an indicator to leading happier and healthier lives.

They more than accomplished this feat.

For over 80 years, researchers with the Harvard Study of Adult Development have collected mounds of data on the physical and mental health of two main groups. The Grant Study; Composed of 268 Harvard graduates from classes 1939–1944 (including eventual President John F. Kennedy). The Glueck Study; composed of 456 poor Boston residents from 1939–2018.

Main Finding:

“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

That’s not to say we should engage in quid pro quo interactions and relationships with others for the sole purpose of bettering out health in the long run. The data in the study actually shows that loving relationships built on giving with no expected return creates a bond that strengthens both parties.

Giving with open, outstretched arms is an essential expression of gratitude. This gratitude has a direct correlation in healthy relationships. Harvard researchers compiled data including PET scans, medical records and interviews and questionnaires and found an amazing correlation between men’s healthy lives and their interpersonal relationships.

And the results are almost mutually exclusive to external environment:

America has been involved in five major wars (World War II, Korean war, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Invasion of Iraq), major economic shrinkage (the Great Depression, Black Monday) and economic booms since the start of the ongoing study. It should be noted, the data in this long-term study stayed true regardless of the environmental changes.

View Robert Waldinger’s TED talk.

Said Waldinger in a TED talk viewed more than 27 million times: “When we gathered together everything we knew about them about at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old, It was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

The take away is people live healthier and longer with loving relationships and loneliness has mortality rates comparable to smoking or alcohol abuse.

Love freely but be wary of your precious time. Do not spend an iota of time on those who can’t lend an encouraging word or support your endeavors. Engage in supporting relations and avoid toxic ones. And every once in a while, make sure you aren’t a toxic agent in a relationship.

A great friend of mine always ask each other in earnest, “are you existing or are you LIVING?”

I choose to live.

Jayson Bailey is the Principal with MedTech Health Consortium and a contributing writer to several organizations and outlets.

#life #lifelessons #selfimprovement #health #happiness

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