Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness

Source: Harvard Adult Development Study (TED Talk) Published: April 2017

Source: Harvard Adult Development Study (TED Talk)
Published: April 2017

Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness

Circulated: August 8, 2019

In 1938 during the Great Depression, Harvard researchers started tracking the lives of 268 Harvard sophomores. The idea was to track the development through periodic interviews and medical checkups, with the aim of revealing clues to leading healthy and happy lives.

The main take-aways from Robert Waldinger, Director:

  • “Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”

  • “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”

  • “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

6 factors that predicted healthy aging:

  • Physical activity

  • Absence of alcohol abuse

  • Absence of smoking

  • Having mature mechanisms to cope with life’s ups and downs

  • A healthy body weight

  • A stable marriage

19 (6%) of the original Harvard cohort are still alive. Among the original recruits were eventual President John F. Kennedy.