For 75 years, 724 men, their wives, and their 2000 children, were interviewed year after year, about their work, their home lives, and their health; and this is what they have learned.
The clearest message that they got from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.
The researchers learned three big lessons about relationships. The first lesson 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.
The second big lesson that the researchers 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.
And the third big lesson that the researchers 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.
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.
But over these 75 years, the research study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community.
To watch Robert Waldinger talk about, “What makes a good life?”