Harvard Study Says This is the Secret to Happiness

Katie Sweeney

If you think money, power, or success are the secrets to true happiness, think again. Inc. is reporting on the key findings of the Grant Study, a 75-year-old Harvard research project on human development that says the most important aspect of happiness is positive relationships. Dr. Robert Waldinger, the fourth psychiatrist to run the study, says that “the clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period." Although the study, which started in 1938, only followed the lives of 724 men (60 of whom are still alive today), the findings can be applied to both sexes.

According to Waldinger, there are three key findings about relationships that predicted the overall happiness and health of the men. The first is that loneliness kills. Lonely people are less happy, and their brain functioning declines sooner than those who are not lonely. The second is that the quality of relationships matters more than quantity. "It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health," Waldinger said. "High-conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective."

The third and final outcome is that good relationships protect the brain. When you are in a relationship where you can count on the other person, your memory stays sharper longer. The moral of the story? Seek out positive, healthy relationships and you'll live a longer, happier life. 

Learn more about the Grant Study—which included President John F. Kennedy—by reading Triumphs of Experience.

Do your relationships help with your levels of happiness?

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