It’s the longest running study on happiness, ever
Getty Ben Pipe Photography
By Anya Meyerowitz
It’s hard to measure happiness – it means different things to different people and it can’t be seen. However, the brave scientists at Harvard University decided to measure it anyway – and they might have conquered it!
The study they conducted though was no ordinary bit of research because happiness changes and evolves, sometimes on a daily basis, so simply monitoring people over a few days or weeks wouldn’t do.
Harvard Medical School instead began a 75 year study, known as the Grant Study, and it is the longest running study on happiness ever to be conducted.
The scientists looking into happiness in adult development wanted to analyse what enhanced the wellbeing of an individual rather than what deteriorated it.
So, over 75 years they tracked the lives of 724 men, asking on a yearly basis how they were coping in every area of their lives, of which 60 are still alive and still participating.
The participants were from two groups: the first were sophomore students at Harvard in 1938, when the study first began and the second were children from one of the poorest areas of Boston, who came from poverty-stricken backgrounds.
Researchers closely monitored the lives of those involved over the course of the study using interviews, questionnaires, brain scans, blood tests, medical records and talking to their loved ones. As the study evolved alongside their lives, the experts also began to talk to their wives and children.
The revolutionary research was the first of its kind in the world and it has produced some surprising – but lovely – results.
The biggest discovery of all was that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
Those that were in unhappy relationships or were lonely were more likely to suffer from pain, discontent and lead unhealthy lifestyles.
It turns out that The Beatles were right, love is all you need.
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger who is the current director of the study detailed the findings of the study in a fascinating TED Talk in January 2016. You can watch the full talk here: