Findings from a 75-year Harvard study solidify the importance of having strong relationships with others.
Wealth, a successful career, status, possessions. While these can be nice things to have, research shows they will not lead to a happier, more fulfilled life.
The Study of Adult Development has been following two groups of men over 75 years in order to identify the psychosocial predictors of healthy aging. In the study are two groups of participants, the Grant Study, composed of 268 Harvard graduates from the classes of 1939-1944, and the Glueck Study which is composed of 456 men who grew up in the inner-city neighbourhoods of Boston.
Through this study, researchers across multiple generations have analyzed blood samples, conducted brain scans (once they were introduced), delved into self-reported surveys and have had real life interactions with participants in order to compile their findings.
And what they have found is so simple and pure; that good, solid relationships built on love are the biggest predictor of a person’s health and happiness in life.
What we all need is a group – the size doesn’t matter – but a group of friends that become our village. These are people you can rely on, and they can rely on you. Having this has been shown to relax the nervous system, strengthen the brain (keeping it healthier longer), and reduce the impact of both emotional and physical pain.
The quality of our relationships, whether it is with family, friends or a romantic partner is what matters most. If you can be vulnerable, if you feel safe, if there is trust and understanding, and if you can simply be yourself around these people, you are likely to enjoy a greater sense of overall wellbeing.
And if you haven’t quite gotten to where you want to be, if you have many friends but none that you feel a strong connection with, or if you do have a close-knit group but want to expand your social circles – perhaps find others who are going through a similar life situation – know that it is never too late to reach out and form new friendships. And that these new friendships can be just as strong.
When it comes to relationships the data is clear; those that feel lonely are more likely to see their physical health decline earlier. So get on the phone, meet up in person, and spend more time with friends. Deepen your relationships and watch your happiness and sense of fulfilment grow.