Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Harvard Dept of Psychiatry: Harvard Study of Adult Development

harvard This study is one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history spanning nearly 80 years, examining the question of what is likely to make us happy and fulfilled.


The Harvard Study of Adult Development study tracks the lives of two cohorts of men, the first one follows the lives of 268 men who entered college in 1938 through war career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparent hood, and old age. The second group were 456 boys from the most disadvantaged families in 1930's Boston.

The men submitted to medical exams every 5 years, took psychological tests, returned questionnaires, and participated in face-to-face interviews every fifteen years. The study survivors - around 60 of them still living are now in their 90s, and research has begun on more than 2000 of their children.

Once the men were tracked into their 80's researchers looked back at them in midlife to see if they could try to predict who would be healthy and happy in their 80s. It was found that those most satisfied in their relationships in their 50s were the healthiest in their 80s.

The long-term research identified some major factors that predict healthy aging:

  • Loving, supporting relationships.
  • Contentment, and feeling connected to one's work.
  • Social connections: family, friends and community.

Happiness within relationships has a powerful influence on health. It is the quality of people's relationships that matter. Close relationships help keep people happy throughout life and help protect people from life's discontents, help delay mental and physical decline and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.

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Harvard Department of Psychiatry

Harvard Medical School
2 West - Room 305
401 Park Drive Boston, Massachussetts 02215


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