Fame? Money? Working hard? Research uncovers what really makes us happy

In the 1930s, Harvard University began the longest study on human happiness. They invited 19-year-olds from Harvard as well as teenagers from the poorest neighborhoods of Boston to participate. For over 75 years, they did medical tests, interviews and checked up on their subjects every two years to see how they were doing. And what they found about happiness surprised them.

In his viral 2015 “TED Talk”, professor Waldinger, the fourth director of the study, revealed that while many young people tend to think that fame, fortune, and hard work will bring them happiness, it’s actually our social connections that are most important for our wellbeing.

Waldinger says that the data he and his colleagues have collected indicates that people who are well connected to family, friends and communities are happier, healthier and live longer than those who are less well connected. People who are more isolated than they want to be see their brain function decline quicker, suffer from shorter lifespans and typically experience lower health and happiness levels.

Other links between relationship status and happiness have also been discovered. Whilst positive relationships can have a majorly beneficial impact on us, the reverse is true of negative relationships. The data gathered suggests that an unhappy marriage, for example, can have a more pronounced negative impact on the parties involved than the corresponding divorce would create.

So, perhaps it’s time to forget about your cholesterol levels, because Waldinger looked at those as well in the study’s sample group when they were age 50 and found little link between poor results and happiness and satisfaction when they were 80. Those who had positive relationships at age 50, however, were also the happiest and healthiest individuals when they became octogenarians.

The message, of course, applies to us all and in many ways, but is especially interesting for us to consider when it comes to our financial health and wellbeing. Great finances, well looked after and planned, allow us to concentrate on the important things in life; on nurturing great relationships with our family and friends. Keep working towards positive relationships and we’ll keep your money working for you and those close to you. Here’s to a happy, healthy future!

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