It has taken nearly 80 years and a slew of scientific studies to come up with the result: wealth and a good genetic makeup really have little to do with our level of joy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development started in 1938, delving into the lives of such high-profile participants as Ben Bradlee and John F. Kennedy. Over the years, it’s been broadened to include inner-city residents along with offspring from the original Harvard elite, and the results were unexpected, to say the least.
The results from the study established that the best predictors of aging well with a happy and long life were not IQ, genetics, fame, finances, or social status but simply close relationships. Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
Psychiatrist George Vaillant, who led the research study between 1972-2004, shared in his book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, the factors that forecast healthy aging:
- The absence of smoking and alcohol abuse
- Physical activity
- Mature mechanisms in place to cope with challenges in life
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Having a stable marriage
The bottom line is, self-care is crucial to our level of joy – from the perspective of both mental and physical health – and investing effort to making your relationships the very best they can be definitely falls under that umbrella as well. In fact, additional research studies have revealed that the level of contentment men and women experience in their relationships is a much more accurate determinant of what their physical health is likely to be later in life than physical factors like cholesterol levels.
The research also overturned earlier thinking that our personalities are set in stone by 30 years old. Many who struggled in their early adult years enjoyed fulfilling later years, while others excelled at the beginning of life but fell apart later because of alcoholism and depression.
The research study continues on today, into its third and fourth generations, as researchers believe there is still more to learn, including how to better manage stress and whether a difficult childhood can impact middle age and later years.
Let Serenity Home Care, the top provider of Victoria senior care and care in the nearby areas, help instill joy in an older adult’s life; reach out to us today! Our caregivers serve as friendly companions to take part in exercise, conversations, and pleasant activities together, cultivating socialization and additional relational connections. We can be contacted any time at 250.590.8098 to arrange a no cost in-home assessment to find out more information.