Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Makes Us Happy? Relationships.

Joshua Wolf Shenk has written a very thorough and interesting article in The Atlantic called "What Makes Us Happy?" It's about the Harvard Study of Adult Development, an amazing 72-year longitudinal study on male mental and physical well-being. For 42 years the HSAD's chief curator, investigator, and analyst has been Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant (72). Wolf Shenk "was granted unprecedented access to case files ordinarily restricted to researchers."

"What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically. Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight."

Now watch this: It's all about relationships. What makes for happiness is: the power of reltionships. Yes. And thank you. Wolf Shenk writes:

"Vaillant’s other main interest is the power of relationships. “It is social aptitude,” he writes, “not intellectual brilliance or parental social class, that leads to successful aging.” Warm connections are necessary—and if not found in a mother or father, they can come from siblings, uncles, friends, mentors. The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger. In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”"

This whole article is worth a good read.