A landmark study that began in 1938 suggests that the key to a healthy, long life is a happy marriage, owning a puppy and hanging on to a group of good friends. These three life-altering factors are even more important than wealth and social class, according to Harvard University’s Grant study. The study spanned over 70 years and followed the lives of nearly 300 Harvard graduates. In 1938, 268 male Harvard students were picked for the study.
They were sophomores in the graduating class of 1942 to 1944 growing up at the tail-end of World War II, according to George Vaillant, a Harvard psychiatrist who directed the study for 32 years. He’s now 78 years old and has published his third book on the findings. The men were followed from young adults to senior citizens, with scientists evaluating their progress in life every two years. “The finding on happiness is that happiness is the wrong word. The right words for happiness are emotional intelligence, relationships, joy, connections and resilience,” he told the Daily Mail newspaper in the United Kingdom.
A common thread that kept the men happy and thriving was a happy relationship: only four of the 31 men in the study who remained single were still alive today. Meanwhile, more than a third of those with companions were still alive even into their 90s, according to the newspaper. Overall, marriages brought much more happiness after the age of 70, too. Still, those who had lost their loved ones moved on. “Having a loving family is terribly important but from 70 to 90 years old, you’d be surprised at the people who, despite enormous deprivation, manage to find love later on,” Vaillant said.
If subjects didn’t have meaningful relationships, a pet dog often filled the void, the study noted. “If you want to be happy, and don’t have a six-month-old baby to trade smiles with, get yourself a puppy.” The Grant research notes that owning a pet dog, for example, boosts your physical and mental wellbeing. The animals also keep your immune system strong, while daily walks with pets gets owners into the habit of regular exercise.
Courtesy: Global Edmonton