Between the current political climate and tax season (among other things), it can be easy to forget how important it is to put energy into your relationships. Luckily, a 75-yearlong study at Harvard just reminded us that the people in our lives have more power than anything else to keep us happy and healthy.
The Harvard Grant and Glueck study followed the emotional well-being of two separate groups: 456 men of limited means growing up in in Boston (from the 1930s through today) and 268 male graduates at Harvard between 1939 and 1944. They were studied from all perspectives: blood tests, brain scans, surveys and interviews, and ultimately, the results were startling in their simplicity: Love — not money, vacations or a great career — is what makes us happy and healthy.
Happy people were defined as having healthier hearts and brains, as well as less emotional and physical pain. So it’s not just that googly-eyed glow that people get when they have great relationships; it’s also about keeping your vital organs in top shape and feeling less sadness and blues. The best part? You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to get these benefits — amazing friendships can do the same thing.
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period,” reports Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of adult development. “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.” That’s right — ultimately it wasn’t income disparity, careers or success that determined how happy these men were over the course of their lives, but whether they found happiness through love and relationships.
While the study only studied men, it’s easy to guess that high-quality relationships probably has positive effects on women too. (And if you’re a woman in a relationship with a man, it’s good to know that you can have such a significant effect on his well-being!)
If that’s not a reminder to prioritize happiness and time with those we love over everything else, we don’t know what is.