The participants of the longest study on happiness were all teenagers when this study began in the year 1938. The interesting part is that the 35th President of the US, John F. Kennedy was also part of this study when it began. Over the years many of the participants passed away including him. After 80 years there have been approximately 60 survivors. The only drawback of the study is that all the participants were men. It would have been really good if women would have also been part of it.
How has the study proceeded?
Year after year the participants have been contacted to answer questions in relation to their mental and emotional wellness and about their home lives and work lives. The researchers have been having conversations with them in their living rooms. They have also been studying video-taped recordings of their conversations with their partners. Generations of researchers involved in this study have been additionally talking to doctors and about 2,000 children of the participants. From 1938 to now there have been 4 directors of the study. Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, is the current director.
The participants were of different social and economic strata of the society. All have had different stories and different professions. Some of them have done really well while some have got into alcoholism or have become schizophrenic etc. Lives of some of the participants who were from good backgrounds had turned on to be completely opposite whereas some of the people of poor backgrounds had gone on to be on top of their chosen professions.
Key mantra of happiness lies in good personal as well as social relationships - research finding over the years
The clearest message that has come out of this study is that good relationships keep people healthier and happier. Socially well-connected life plays a great role in the happiness quotient of individuals. The quality of relationship matters and loneliness puts a big dent on happiness. The study also reveals that being in toxic relationships or in unhappy marriages is worse than divorce.
This mantra of happiness sounds so simple but actually it is not perhaps this why mental health issues have taken a toll. This is the time when we need to reflect on the findings of the study more as we have got immense opportunities to stay connected with people who matter to us. More than screen time it’s the people-time that matters. Also, get in touch with all with whom you have had no conversation since years. Make family or friendship feuds come to an end as it takes a huge toll on our overall well being and happiness. Better now than never. Invest time on your relationships and reap its fruits in the form of health and happiness.