75 Years of Research Reveals the Secret to Being Happy and Healthy

A new study shows what does — and doesn’t — lead to greater wellbeing.

Leading a happy and fulfilling life has little to do with your income or having a prestigious job, according to a 75-year long Harvard study. What does matter? Having solid relationships.

The study looked at two populations: 456 poor men who grew up in Boston from 1939–2014, and 268 men who graduated from Harvard between 1939–1944. Researchers interacted with the men, took blood samples, and used more modern technology like brain scans to collect data on their lives and wellbeing.

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Years of analysis led to inspiring findings: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, told Inc.

Good relationships, according to the researchers, are all about quality over quantity. And having close relationships doesn’t just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside — it boosts your physical health, too. Existing research tells us that loneliness can affect longevity, and as Inc. explains, the new study suggests close relationships can help calm your nervous system, keep your brain healthier as you age and minimize emotional and physical pain.

Think of these findings as a reminder to invest in your close relationships — a sort of social 401k. And while, as Inc. points out, it’s easy to get distracted from IRL relationships when we’re constantly connected to social media, taking the time to meaningfully engage with and strengthen our closest bonds can lead to a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.

Read more on Inc.