After almost 80 years and a multitude of studies focused on healthy aging, researchers have determined that wealth and a good genetic makeup really have little to do with our levels of joy. The Harvard Study of Adult Development began in 1938, delving into the lives of high-profile participants such as John F. Kennedy and Ben Bradlee. Over the years, it has been broadened to incorporate inner-city residents as well as offspring from the original Harvard elite, and the outcomes were unexpected, to say the least.
The results from the study established that the greatest predictors of a happy and long life were not IQ, genetics, fame, finances, or social status but quite simply close relationships. Robert Waldinger, director of the study and a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares, “The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
Psychiatrist George Vaillant who led the research study from 1972 until 2004, shared in his book “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development,” the contributing factors that predict healthy aging:
- The absence of smoking and alcohol abuse
- Physical activity
- Mature mechanisms in place to cope with challenges in life
- Sustaining a healthy weight
- Having a stable marriage
In a nutshell, self-care is a must for our level of joy – from the perspective of both mental and physical health – and devoting effort to making your relationships the best they can be most definitely falls under that umbrella as well. In fact, subsequent studies have uncovered that the satisfaction level people experience in their relationships is a much more accurate determinant of what their physical health is likely to be later in life than physical factors like cholesterol levels.
The research also challenged prior thinking that our personalities are carved in stone by age 30. Many people who encountered difficulties in their early adult years enjoyed fulfilling later years, while others succeeded at the beginning of life but ran into challenges later due to mental health issues and alcoholism.
The study continues on today, into its third and fourth generations, as researchers believe there is still more to learn, including how to better regulate stress and whether a hard childhood makes a difference in middle age and later years.
Let Seniorcorp’s highly-trained caregivers help instill joy in an older adult’s life; contact us today! Our caregivers serve as cheerful companions with our Portsmouth companion care in the nearby areas to take part in exercise, conversations, and meaningful activities together, cultivating socialization and additional relational connections. To learn more about our senior home care in Portsmouth, VA and the surrounding areas, reach out to us any time at 757-640-0557 to schedule a no cost in-home assessment.