FEATURE – In 1938, Harvard University began following 268 male undergraduate students and kicked off the longest-running longitudinal studies of human development in history.
The study’s goal was to determine what factors contribute most strongly to human flourishing. The astonishing range of psychological, anthropological, and physical traits – ranging from personality type to IQ to drinking habits to family – indicates just how exhaustive and quantifiable the research data has become.
Recently, George Vaillant, who directed the study for more than three decades, published the study’s findings in the 2012 book “Triumphs of Experience.” The book said marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50.
As you can imagine, the study’s discoveries are bountiful, but the most significant finding of all is that “alcoholism is a disorder of great destructive power.”
In “Triumphs of Experience,” Vaillant raises a number of contributing factors, but the one he refers to most often is the powerful correlation between the warmth of your relationships and your health and happiness in later years.
In his own words, Vaillant said: “The seventy-five years and twenty million dollars expended on the Grant Study points to a straightforward five-word conclusion: Happiness is love. Full stop.”
Written by Kimball B. Forbes for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
Kimball B. Forbes has been in the St. George area for the past 28 years and is a co-owner of Advanced Hearing and Balance Specialists. He and his wife, Jonna, are the proud parents of eight children and four grandchildren.
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