What if I told you there was a study that revealed the secret to a fulfilling life?
What if I told you the study lasted 75 years long and is in fact ongoing today?
What if I told you the study was conducted by three generations of investigators at Harvard University, and even better, it revealed the primary predictive parameter that determines a life of happiness.
About half of the participants in this study were Harvard males and the other half were inner city ne’er-do-well youths.
Most of the later group didn’t even have running hot and cold water at home. Though they were impoverished, they were not delinquents.
Every year or so, the researcher would interview the subject, get their medical histories, see them in their homes, interview their families and do a battery of medical tests including CT scans of their brain.
As of today, researchers are following 67 of the remaining original subjects and over 2000 of their offspring.
Some subjects within their study climbed the social and financial ladder from the bottom to the top, some, the other direction. Some became drug addicts and alcoholics.
Some became schizophrenic and other psychiatric maladies and one became a U.S. president.
At the beginning of the study, the subjects were asked what they thought would be the greatest predictor of a happy life, or what they aspire for.
Over half said fortune, the other half said fame.
In analyzing the most recent data of the study subjects who are now into their 80s, something spectacular came to the surface of all the data collected.
The study did provide data such as how alcoholism was the resounding cause of marital breakdown, and financial success depended on the warmth of relationships and not intelligence.
But it was the warmth of the relationships throughout life which had the greatest positive impact on ‘life satisfaction.” In the words of the chief investigator “Happiness is love. Full stop.”
The greater degree of connection the subjects had in their relationships, be it marital, children, friends , the greater their life satisfaction was and so was their health. In fact, the gentlemen who had the relationships that were considered strong in connection and meaning in their 50s, were the healthiest in their 80s.
There was no correlation between having or not having money or fame and being happy.
It was good close human relationships that had a direct effect on our lives and well-being.
These were people who actively perused and nurtured close relationships.
These were the people who “leaned” into relationships.
Health and happiness seem like elusive goals and difficult to define. I guess that is why it takes a lifetime to do so.
The secret is close relationships and a sense of connection throughout your life. Connection.
So put the newspaper down for a bit.
Dr. Markus Thiel is a chiropractor practicing in Kelowna.