All You Need is Love: The Keys to Happiness Revealed by a 75-Year Harvard Study

The lat­est install­ment from PBS’ Brain­Craft video series intro­duces us to two sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies that teach us a thing or two about what brings us hap­pi­ness. One set of results comes from Dr. John Gottman’s Fam­i­ly Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry (a.k.a. the “Love Lab”); the oth­er from the Har­vard Grant Study, a 75-year study that has traced the lives and devel­op­ment of 268 Har­vard sopho­mores from the class­es of 1939–1944. Although the study focus­es on priv­i­leged white men (the demo­graph­ic that attend­ed Har­vard Col­lege dur­ing the 1930s and 40s), the Har­vard Grant Study has yield­ed con­clu­sions that apply to a broad­er pop­u­la­tion.

One of the longest-run­ning stud­ies of adult devel­op­ment, the study has found, for exam­ple, that alco­holism has some of the most ruinous effects on mar­riages, fam­i­ly finances and per­son­al health. Like­wise, it reveals that lib­er­als have sex much fur­ther into old age than their con­ser­v­a­tive peers.

But those aren’t the big take­aways — the con­clu­sions that talk about hap­pi­ness. If you watch the inter­view below with George Vail­lant, the long­time direc­tor of the study, you will hear him con­clude that hap­pi­ness isn’t about “con­form­ing, keep­ing up with the Jone­ses. It is about play­ing, and work­ing, and lov­ing. And lov­ing is prob­a­bly the most impor­tant. Hap­pi­ness is love.”

Accord­ing to Vail­lant, “warmth of rela­tion­ships through­out life have the great­est pos­i­tive impact on ‘life sat­is­fac­tion.’ ” When we have warm rela­tion­ships with our par­ents, spous­es, friends and fam­i­ly, we expe­ri­ence less dai­ly anx­i­ety and a greater sense of over­all plea­sure; we have bet­ter health (includ­ing low­er lev­els of demen­tia lat­er in life); and we’re more effec­tive at work and make more mon­ey.

Essen­tial­ly The Bea­t­les had it right, “All you need is love. Love is all you need.”

You can read more about the Har­vard study over at The Atlantic.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Guide to Hap­pi­ness: Alain de Bot­ton Shows How Six Great Philoso­phers Can Change Your Life

Take the ‘Hap­pi­ness Exper­i­ment’

Free Online Psy­chol­o­gy Cours­es

A Crash Course on Psy­chol­o­gy: A 30-Part Video Series from Hank Green

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  • Sandra Francis says:

    I am glad to read that some­one sees things the way that I do. Yes a lot of it is com­mon sense but I think the demands of liv­ing get in our way. Also reli­gion and mon­ey play a part. What you believe in and how much mon­ey you have or don’t have con­tributes to a lot of prob­lems. Maybe I don’t under­stand a lot of things but I feel that we should all be able to live bet­ter and longer lives. We can go into out­er space but we are hav­ing trou­ble get­ting it togeth­er on Earth. Go fig­ure!

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