Healthy people are happier

What really matters: good relationships with others

For more than 75 years, Harvard researchers have followed the lives of 724 American men. Among the study participants are Harvard University graduates as well as men from poor backgrounds. Such a long study is very rare. It provides insights that are otherwise difficult to obtain.

"A good life consists of good relationships." Robert Waldinger, American psychiatrist and researcher

When the study began in 1938, the men were teenagers or young adults. Nobody could know then how their lives would turn out. Those who are still alive today are now over 90 years old. Year after year, the researchers questioned them in interviews, analyzed their résumés and medical data, and even filmed them in discussions with their wives. Some became factory workers, others bricklayers, lawyers, gardeners, publishers - and one, John F. Kennedy, even became President of the United States.

Good relationships with others make you healthier

Robert Waldinger, who is now the fourth head of the study, sums up the results of the study in one sentence: "The most important message we get from the 75-year study is: Good relationships make us happier and healthier. Period."

The men who were in good relationships - with family, friends, or communities - were not only happier and healthier, they lived longer than those who were less well-connected.

It's not the quantity that counts, but the quality

From their data, the researchers conclude that "it is not the number of friends that matters and not whether you are in a committed relationship, but the quality." The men who were most satisfied with their relationships at 50 were the healthiest at 80. Cholesterol or other health data were not the best predictors of how healthy they would be by the age of 80, but how satisfied they were with their relationships.

Constantly living in conflict is bad for our health. Robert Waldinger

Good for the brain

Having good relationships with other people also protects the brain. Those who knew they could rely on someone else when needed had better memories with age.

Build relationships

So it makes sense to invest in good relationships. Waldinger has a few suggestions ready: "For example, you could replace the time in front of the TV with time with friends, or revive relationships by doing something new together, taking long walks or going out in the evening, or turning to family members with whom you have been with for a long time has not spoken. " Why not just start?