Harvard studied people for 80 years to find the biggest thing that makes us happy

Harvard studied people for 80 years to find the biggest thing that makes us happy
Expert Advice on Finding Happiness When You're Feeling Lonely

Harvard University researchers studied people for 80 years - and they discovered the most significant thing that makes us feel happiest.

The researchers found that close relationships make men happy in life through copious amounts of data obtained from medical records, questionnaires, and in-person interviews.

They also understood that social ties acted as a shield for people from life challenges while improving physical and mental wellness.

This comes as quite a surprise for a society in which work is prioritised and recognised as the golden ticket to a better life.

In a unique kind of ongoing research, the Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked the lives of 724 men for 80 years.

With that, the men were divided into two classes. One group was sophomores at Harvard College, and the second group was a group of boys from Boston's impoverished neighbourhoods.

From the moment they were in their adolescence up to old age, they were investigated to determine what keeps men healthy and jovial.

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Since 1938 (and year after year), the researchers asked the men questions about their lives, health, and work without knowing how their truths would play out.

It turns out that being prosperous in life is a function of being close with friends, family and community. It didn't have anything to do with things such as IQ, genes, social class and fame.

Robert Waldinger - a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and fourth director of the study - said that our relationships have a powerful impact on health.

He made this observation in a popular TED Talk and said that the study uncovered these same lessons about relationships.

While noting that loneliness is toxic, Waldinger also said that social connections made people happier, physically healthier, and live longer lives.

On the other hand, Waldinger also said that people who happen to be more isolated than they mean to "are less happy" face "health declines earlier in midlife" and "their brain functioning declines sooner."

"And they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely."

Waldinger further noted that the quality of close relationships is critically important to take notice of. He also said that they could see which of the men would grow into happy, robust octogenarians by looking back at them in midlife.

"When we gathered together everything we knew about them 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," he said.

Read more about the study here.

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