An 80 year longitudinal study on Adult Development from Harvard Medical school has found that “our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.” Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said “Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
In this study, researchers followed 724 men since they were teenagers in 1938, and the scientists eventually expanded their research to include the offspring of these men. Over the years, researchers studied the participants’ health trajectories and their broader lives, including success and failures in their careers and marriages.
After 80 years of following and studying the lives of the expanded control group, the scientists have come to the startling conclusion that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. These close bonds protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.
According to the research fourth director Professor R. Waldinger “Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies; they protect our brains. And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time, couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could really count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”
As a relationship counsellor, I have seen and experienced the positive impact a mutual, just, fair and connected relationship can have on our individual sense of self and the way we engage in all aspects of our lives.
Finally, if you are interested in learning more about this research, I would highly recommend Professor Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk:
Till next blog, look after yourself and each other.