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The One Thing You Need for a Happier, Healthier Life

The answer might be more simple than you expect

By Amy Knapp

When it comes to happiness, many have tried to find the key to it. Is it money, a successful career, fame? Is there one thing that happy people have that unhappy people don't? According to The Harvard Study of Adult Development, there is.

Harvard Medical School professor and researcher Robert J. Waldinger spoke at the TEDxBeaconStreet conference recently and delivered the findings from a more than 75-year-old ongoing study on the cause of happiness. (You can watch his talk below.) Waldinger is the fourth person to run the study, according to The Washington Post.

In it, researchers selected a group of of 724 men from the Boston area — 268 sophomores from Harvard College and 456 teenagers from the inner city — and followed them as they aged. The men grew to become lawyers, bricklayers, doctors and even a future President of the United States — John F. Kennedy.

Every year, the participants were asked about their home life, their health, their work and other aspects of their lives. They were given medical exams and researchers even reached out to their family members. Not knowing where these mens' lives would end up, the researchers wanted to know: What causes a happy and healthy life?

The Key to Happiness Is...

"The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period," said Waldinger at the TEDx conference. "It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they're physically healthier and they live longer than people who are less well connected. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic." 


Waldinger went on to say that it wasn't necessarily that these people needed to be in a committed relationship, but "it's the quality of your close relationships that matters. It turns out that living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health."

The TedTalk was so popular — seven million views and counting — Waldinger decided to turn it into a blog, letting the conversation continue. According to The Washington Post, he has responded to hundreds of emails ranging from questions on the study to what to do about loneliness.

About 60 of the original Harvard happiness study participants are still alive and participating in it. Waldinger says the researchers are even starting to study the 2,000 children of these men.

To find out even more about the study, watch the TedTalk here:

Amy Knapp was formerly the associate digital editor for Next Avenue. She previously was an editor for InnoVision Health Media's consumer publicationNatural Solutions Magazine.   Read More
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