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Harvard happiness study
Old 05-13-2009, 02:38 PM   #1
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Harvard happiness study

Some of you may enjoy this article in The Atlantic on a very deep, long term study of Harvard men (1937 sophomores including Kennedy, whose data has been pulled until 2040). No stunners about what makes us happy but some interesting anecdotes about the lives of these old timers. The article is as much about the psychiatrist who made the study his life's work as about the subjects of the study. A couple of interesting tidbits on happiness:

"Vaillant...identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging...Employing mature adaptations...education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80."

"What factors don’t matter? Vaillant identified some surprises. Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health in old age... The predictive importance of childhood temperament also diminishes over time...Vaillant sums up: “If you follow lives long enough, the risk factors for healthy life adjustment change. There is an age to watch your cholesterol and an age to ignore it.”

"The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses."
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Old 05-13-2009, 03:13 PM   #2
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Did the study look at wealth or income (haven't read it yet)?

Prior studies seemed to show that money bought happiness only to a very small and low income level, like $50K; after that there was no correlation, IIRC.
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Old 05-13-2009, 04:26 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donheff View Post
"The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses."
Dang, I knew I should've solicited more relationships that year...

Is it too late to catch up?

I enjoyed "Aging Well".
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Old 05-13-2009, 07:03 PM   #4
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This is a very interesting article. My path crossed his one summer when we worked in adjacent labs. I never really felt that I knew him. As I remember, people pronounced his name as "Dr. Valiant". When looked at it appears to be a French name, probably at one time pronounced in the French manner.

My memory is that he was likeable but perhaps reserved. And of course he was quite a bit older than I.

Ha
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Old 05-14-2009, 03:10 AM   #5
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A lot of these men seemed to have trouble with booze; and more than a few were visited by divorce. Quite a few emotional struggles too.

Looking on the bright side seemed like a big help to many of them, and trying to stay for the whole game.

Ha
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