What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger


What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time
and your energy? There was a recent survey of millennials asking them what their
most important life goals were, and over 80 percent said that a major life goal for them
was to get rich. And another 50 percent
of those same young adults said that another major life goal was to become famous. (Laughter) And we’re constantly told
to lean in to work, to push harder and achieve more. We’re given the impression that these
are the things that we need to go after in order to have a good life. Pictures of entire lives, of the choices that people make
and how those choices work out for them, those pictures
are almost impossible to get. Most of what we know about human life we know from asking people
to remember the past, and as we know, hindsight
is anything but 20/20. We forget vast amounts
of what happens to us in life, and sometimes memory
is downright creative. But what if we could watch entire lives as they unfold through time? What if we could study people
from the time that they were teenagers all the way into old age to see what really keeps people
happy and healthy? We did that. The Harvard Study of Adult Development may be the longest study
of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years, we’ve tracked
the lives of 724 men, year after year, asking about their work,
their home lives, their health, and of course asking all along the way
without knowing how their life stories were going to turn out. Studies like this are exceedingly rare. Almost all projects of this kind
fall apart within a decade because too many people
drop out of the study, or funding for the research dries up, or the researchers get distracted, or they die, and nobody moves the ball
further down the field. But through a combination of luck and the persistence
of several generations of researchers, this study has survived. About 60 of our original 724 men are still alive, still participating in the study, most of them in their 90s. And we are now beginning to study the more than 2,000 children of these men. And I’m the fourth director of the study. Since 1938, we’ve tracked the lives
of two groups of men. The first group started in the study when they were sophomores
at Harvard College. They all finished college
during World War II, and then most went off
to serve in the war. And the second group that we’ve followed was a group of boys
from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods, boys who were chosen for the study specifically because they were
from some of the most troubled and disadvantaged families in the Boston of the 1930s. Most lived in tenements,
many without hot and cold running water. When they entered the study, all of these teenagers were interviewed. They were given medical exams. We went to their homes
and we interviewed their parents. And then these teenagers
grew up into adults who entered all walks of life. They became factory workers and lawyers
and bricklayers and doctors, one President of the United States. Some developed alcoholism.
A few developed schizophrenia. Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom
all the way to the very top, and some made that journey
in the opposite direction. The founders of this study would never in their wildest dreams have imagined that I would be
standing here today, 75 years later, telling you that
the study still continues. Every two years, our patient
and dedicated research staff calls up our men
and asks them if we can send them yet one more set of questions
about their lives. Many of the inner city Boston men ask us, “Why do you keep wanting to study me?
My life just isn’t that interesting.” The Harvard men never ask that question. (Laughter) To get the clearest picture
of these lives, we don’t just send them questionnaires. We interview them in their living rooms. We get their medical records
from their doctors. We draw their blood, we scan their brains, we talk to their children. We videotape them talking with their wives
about their deepest concerns. And when, about a decade ago,
we finally asked the wives if they would join us
as members of the study, many of the women said,
“You know, it’s about time.” (Laughter) So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come
from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth
or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get
from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us
happier and healthier. Period. We’ve learned three big lessons
about relationships. The first is that social connections
are really good for us, and that loneliness kills. 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. People who are more isolated
than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives
than people who are not lonely. And the sad fact
is that at any given time, more than one in five Americans
will report that they’re lonely. And we know that you
can be lonely in a crowd and you can be lonely in a marriage, so the second big lesson that we learned is that it’s not just
the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not
you’re 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. High-conflict marriages, for example,
without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health,
perhaps worse than getting divorced. And living in the midst of good,
warm relationships is protective. Once we had followed our men
all the way into their 80s, we wanted to look back at them at midlife and to see if we could predict who was going to grow
into a happy, healthy octogenarian and who wasn’t. And when we gathered together
everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle age
cholesterol levels that predicted how they
were going to grow old. It was how satisfied they were
in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied
in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. And good, close relationships
seem to buffer us from some of the slings and arrows
of getting old. Our most happily partnered men and women reported, in their 80s, that on the days
when they had more physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. But the people who were
in unhappy relationships, on the days when they
reported more physical pain, it was magnified by more emotional pain. And the third big lesson that we learned
about relationships and our health is that good relationships
don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains. It turns out that being
in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80s
is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count
on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories
stay sharper longer. And the people in relationships where they feel they really
can’t count on the other one, those are the people who experience
earlier memory decline. And those good relationships,
they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples
could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they
could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll
on their memories. So this message, that good, close relationships
are good for our health and well-being, this is wisdom that’s as old as the hills. Why is this so hard to get
and so easy to ignore? Well, we’re human. What we’d really like is a quick fix, something we can get that’ll make our lives good
and keep them that way. Relationships are messy
and they’re complicated and the hard work of tending
to family and friends, it’s not sexy or glamorous. It’s also lifelong. It never ends. The people in our 75-year study
who were the happiest in retirement were the people who had actively worked
to replace workmates with new playmates. Just like the millennials
in that recent survey, many of our men when they
were starting out as young adults really believed that fame and wealth
and high achievement were what they needed to go after
to have a good life. But over and over, over these 75 years,
our study has shown that the people who fared the best were
the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community. So what about you? Let’s say you’re 25,
or you’re 40, or you’re 60. What might leaning in
to relationships even look like? Well, the possibilities
are practically endless. It might be something as simple
as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship
by doing something new together, long walks or date nights, or reaching out to that family member
who you haven’t spoken to in years, because those all-too-common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges. I’d like to close with a quote
from Mark Twain. More than a century ago, he was looking back on his life, and he wrote this: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies,
heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant,
so to speak, for that.” The good life is built
with good relationships. Thank you. (Applause)

Comments 100

  • So a better conclusion would be that we need something to drive us forward in life.

  • Urantia paper 177: – The child's subsequent life is made happy or unhappy, easy or difficult, in accordance with his early mental and emotional life, conditioned by these social and spiritual relationships of the home.

  • So I just have to ask her out??😄

  • Wow 😮 it worked . I just receive a wire transfer of $47,000 which we shared 60-40 with no upfront charges or sending money to anyone before the hack .. I will continue to sing his praise WhatsApp +1(619)720 0748

  • I wonder if the people have problems which end up causing loneliness, brain problems, and health problems. Maybe those that aren't lonely and live longer and better lives are due to overall healthier body and brains.

  • Well, that explains a lot about me.

  • his voice is so calming

  • Hats off to you people

  • What a creepy voice….. This guy could make so much money doing voice work

  • This lecture is incomplete as it studied only under western culture and civilisation . Unless studies carried out in the east . Just be aware that “Easternisation “ is on the rise .

  • Some are uncapable of maintaining relationships. 🙁

  • This is not the answer im looking. Because i know it for the bottom of my heart but i dont want to accept it. Im tired of meeting new people and being in the crowd. I've lose some important relationships. But sometimes i feel lonely. I dont know if im the kind of person happy when alone.

  • Well I would say always be passionate about something and you will be happy and healthy no matter what. Of course, if you're lucky enough to find that perfect relationship that makes you love and feel loved (very important), not just one way train, than you'll be double happy and healthy, but I believe it's not the requirement.

  • I am so tired seeing millenials in the corner.

  • So I will never be happy. Period!

  • I wonder how they know that good relationships are causing good physical and mental health, as opposed to good physical and mental health causing good relationships.

  • When Ego comes every thing goes and when Ego goes every thing comes. Ego is relationship destroyer. Measuring your relationship with money always dilute the quality of your relationship.

  • God bless you sir!

  • The way Disney sums this talk in a 15 seconds princess monologue is amazing

  • I felt so warm when I was watching this video.
    Thanks a lot.

  • Geez, some of you! What's wrong with studying men? We're people too!

  • I agree with him. I was extremely sick when I was lonely. My health drastically improved within 2 months when I moved to a new place where I met amazing people who are now my new family.

  • "Good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period ". Honestly, that gave me relief.

  • I can imagine listening to him reading the Harry Potter books and it will put me at peace.

  • Was there no women in the 30s/40s ?

  • Fame and wealth, particularly wealth is what most modern women look for. No money? No honey.

  • I feel sorry for those 80% and 50%.

  • Looked like Jeremy Corbyn at first sight

  • Not getting married will bring happiness…

  • Ha. Like many scientific studies, all the participants are men. What a joke. Where are the women and underrepresented genders here?? We existed back then and we exist now >:(

  • Now I just have to pry everyone I know away from there tv, phone, blunt and laptop.

  • Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

    Lesson 1: Social connections are really good for us; loneliness kills
    Lesson 2: It's not the number of friends, but the quality of your close relationships that matters
    Lesson 3: Good relationships protect our bodies & brains

    The good life is built with good relationships.

  • Amen! Life is about connection

  • One hundread years of reasearch for stating that good relationships matter. What a genius.

  • Why women are not part of the study?

  • 0:54 The picture shows Japanese work life.
    By the way I' m Japanese.

  • Reading the Bible can agree. Love above all is the wine of life. Love God, love your neighbor, love people not things

  • 7:17 “more than 1 in 5 Americans report being lonely.” So 2?

  • This is why gangster are healthy and live a long happy life.

  • But now we live in a social media world. I think a bit of this has shifted.

  • There was no need for a study. I could have told you all this and……..if you have faith in God and a relationship with Jesus you are never, ever alone or lonely.

  • Thanks old man but I’ll take the money and die young than die a slow painful death.

  • and i havent experienced being a couple yet and im 23

  • So, the best things in life… are not things !

  • No women or minorities? You'd think Harvard would be able to do a better observational study

  • Yeah, relationships with my family, closest friends. But I really don't want to make and keep new friends and have good relationships every week.

  • I think the one who made this is study have a mental health illness himself.

  • The title should say: Lessons from the longest study on MEN'S happiness… where were the women?

  • https://www.vamatoday.in/lifestyle/things-to-do-when-youre-serving-notice-period/

  • What about making a study on a woman too?! ليش ماشو دراسة على النساء بعد؟

  • The most beautiful talk, ive watched.

  • Lonliness is just a perspective

  • No wonder people are trying to connect through social media

  • My 85 yo grandmother has the same message everytime I meet her😊

  • Worth the watch!.Quality of relationships over quantity,this I totally agree.

  • World was never same for me after my mom passed away. I just feel like I am going through daily motions, with lonely nights.

  • Im one of those "anti feminist" types that have sympathy for mens rights activists….my first thought on this video wqs the loss of a great opportunity not including women. Its a shame it took them so long to get smart.

  • 319 — وعن أنسٍ — رضي الله عنه — : أن رَسُول الله — صلى الله عليه وسلم — ، قَالَ :

    (( من أحَبَّ أنْ يُبْسَطَ لَهُ في رِزْقِهِ ، ويُنْسأَ لَهُ في أثَرِهِ ، فَلْيَصِلْ رَحِمَهُ )) مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيهِ .

    319 — Передают со слов Анаса, да будет доволен им Аллах, что посланник Аллаха, да благословит его Аллах и приветствует, сказал:
    «Пусть (человек,) желающий, чтобы удел его был увеличен, а срок жизни продлён, поддерживает связи со своими родственниками».[1] Этот хадис передали Ахмад 3/156, 247, 266, аль-Бухари в своём «Сахихе» 5968 и «аль-Адабуль-муфрад» 56, 57, Муслим 2557, Абу Дауд 1693, ан-Насаи в «Сунан аль-Кубра» 6/438, Ибн Хиббан 439. См. «Сахих аль-джами’ ас-сагъир» 5956, «Сахих аль-Адабуль-муфрад» 41, 42, «Сахих Аби Дауд» 1486.

  • All the dirty bitches in the audience with cunty looks on their faces- "why werent we vermin included!!?"

  • That awkward moment when they only studied men lmao.

  • Why the heck would so many down-vote this?

  • The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “Whoever would like his Rizq (provision) to be increased and his life to be extended, should uphold the ties of kinship.”

    [Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

  • I’m only 16 I’ve had a ruff life this past year has been one of the hardest for me but also one of the best this is the first time I’ve really loved people and felt loved by people not teenage love but a family type of love and I feel like it’s completely change my life, my values and how I plan to spend the remainder of my life I’m not especially religious but I feel blessed to recognize the importance of people and relationships now rather in old age. I feel kinda compelled to say this somewhere hopefully someone else sees it and it helps them 🙂

  • Fits with attachment theory what we strive for when we come into the world and then get bombarded with other information and experiences and thus forget this fundamental aspect makes me what to appreciate those significant relationships in my life

  • An amazing video. Basically confirming it is time to give up. :/

  • Staring at drivelling facile garbage on the internet is destroying any chance of useful relationships in today's world. Instant gratification with phones has destroyed our social interactions and rendered them tiny snippets of unsatisfying interactions cut short with silly phone obsession instead of the complex satisfying experiences they were before we became fixated on ever changing trivial imagery and snippets of sillyness.

  • Assuming I hate everyone, what's option B?

  • I love people but I prefer solitude
    Gives me peace of mind 😃😎
    Get rich by making money work for you
    But focus on the free things in life: God, Love, family, life, health, relationships, adventure. Focus on inner power.

  • Great talk; Thank you!

  • “This study” – The TrueMan Show

  • Men? Only men?

  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away

  • Give me a good book and a cup of coffee. I love being alone….I am alone most of the time, but not lonely at all. Love it…very happy!

  • What's the joke at 5:00 I can't make out what's so funny?

  • We need to find out what the universe is in first and remove it from what's its in.. We could be apart of gods plan for all you know, an I do not want that do you ? Then we can really work out a life for you an me… The universe is in something that's for sure… Get your priorities right. Dint watch the video sorry will do though.. But what I said won't change till you find out what's its in

  • Ty sir 👍👍👍

  • Be good to yourself. You have alot to give and live for. You might be struggling with so many things that you don't think you will survive. But you got this! You are strong! Find something or someone that makes you feel great about yourself. That helps you through it all. Love yourself. Be good to everyone else. This might be a horrible world we live in, but it has other great things to offer. Find those great things. You are amazing! Love you❤️

  • Love God. Love your spouse. Have kids. Love your family. Work hard but don't worship work. Get outside. Exercise. Ignore negative people.

  • This is the core philosophy of indian culture . Family

  • عن رسول الله ﷺ، رواه أنس  قال: من أحب أن يبسط له في رزقه، وينسأ له في أثره فليصل رحمه.

  • I’m more of the recluse hermit that sits on the mountain away from all the problems of relationships. I’m not sure I agree entirely.

  • too good awesome …. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM-XhQeFzW4 👍👍😊

  • Why just ‘men’ studied? The caption is a misnomer then, ‘what makes a good life, lessons from longest study on happiness.’ – this study, unless female gender equally included, will be a one sided study, a half/50% study. I would want both women n men be included equally in all such studies and then such general captions be more trustworthy. There’s no harm in studying the half of the human world too while the other half is being studied, is there? It would just give more reliability and credibility. I believe that.

  • Oh God, I'm totally screwed.

  • Good Relationships keep us healthier and happier!

  • Life is like the internet, it’s best when you have good connections!

  • That means Pakistanis are unhappy people.

  • Guess I'll just die. My depression forces me to isolate myself.

  • It was great to watch but unnecessarily long, 5 min would've been enough

  • I need "Plenty of Friends" from now on. I am trying to LIVE UP TO 80 years or even more….

  • Speechless. Amazing talk! Thank you to share this…

  • I want one relationship just one with this quality 💔💔💔💔

  • The reality is that a good relationship is hard to get 🙁 this means that being a happy person is not an easy matter

  • That's not a rocket science… but to find the good partner for life is a lottery and a rocket science… not everyone is fortunate to find one… that's why my life fucking sucks…

  • 720 ‘men’. Sure ok, like 50% of the rest of the world don’t also seek happiness….typical

  • It’s interesting that in Genesis God said “It is not good for man to be alone.” Then He made Eve. A helper and someone to have and to hold.

  • But what it takes to have good relationship. No answer to that. In 75 years of your study I think you reached nowhere. This is something that everyone knows. Happiness, Health are abstract principles and what matters is that everyone one of us shall die. It doesn't matter that you die in a good relationship or good health or vice versa. So don't think yourself to be enlightened to have spoken these principles which each one of us know. Moreover health cannot be measure of happiness. So stop wasting billion of dollars on these phony research es. Better would be to serve than to sermon and unecessarily living in fools paradise. Frankly speaking happiness is a myth. So no sermons and ?

  • Happiness means knowing what life is and accepting it, since it is easy for us.

  • This study involved men and only men. I think that to regard this study as valid for both sexes under the rubric "adults" is fundamentally erroneous. That "we"and "us" precludes half the population.

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