The Harvard Study of Adult Development
One famous study that has tried to find answers to what makes a good life is the 1938 Harvard Study. Following over 700 men (apparently women were invisible in the 1930s!) of widely different backgrounds throughout their lives, the study is now in its second generation. It tells us what we suspected all along: our connections to other people matter. Robert Waldinger, the Study's current director, spoke about their findings: "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. And the experience of loneliness turns out to be toxic. People who are more isolated than they want to be from others find that they are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, their brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely." It takes a strong resilience to see that even if we find ourselves without family, spouse, or many remaining lifelong friends, we are surrounded by others like us who wish to connect.