In 1938, Harvard University started an ambitious study which followed 268 men for over 75 years. This study is recognized as the longest of its kind in the history of human evolution. The aim of the study was to determine, as accurately as possible, what factors contribute most to thriving human existence (Feel Guide.com).
The study combined fields like physiology, psychology, anthropology and gathered data ranging from personality type and level of intelligence to alcohol consumption habits, family relationships. Two years ago, George Vaillant, who led the study for more than three decades, has published its findings in the book Triumphs of Experience. The study began in 1938 and followed more than 200 men, starting from their student years and reaching old age. All this study helped researchers understand the maturation of adults and what helps to a man, to live happily after conventional retirement. Analyzing various aspects of men’s lives, from relationships, politics, religion and alcohol consumption to strategies to cope with problems, the study provided some interesting results:
- our lives continues to evolve also in later years, a period that is often proved as more fulfilling than before;
- Men who do well in later yeas were not necessarily the same success as they were in the previous years, or vice versa;
- One may have an unhappy childhood and now a happy life, but the memory of a happy childhood is a source of strength and energy for the entire life;
- Marriages bring more satisfaction after the age 70;
- Physical aging after the age of 80 is less determined by your hereditary roots and more by your lifestyle you had before the age of 50. Thereby, your last years of life will be a proof of your prudent, measured, wise life you’ve had.
- Alcoholism is a problem with an enormous destructive power for men (otherwise, the study notes, alcoholism has been identified as the most common cause of divorce among study participants, also alcoholism was associated to problems such as depression or neurosis);
- Along with smoking, alcoholism proved to be the number one cause of death among study participants;
- In terms of income, it was not a notable difference between those with IQs over 150 and those with IQs between 110-115;
- What regards sexual lives, one of the most interesting findings of the study is that the Liberals have more sex even in their 80’s, while conservatives usually put an end to their sexual life at 68. (“I have consulted urology specialists and they have no idea why this is so,” wrote Vaillant);
- Political ideologies did not affect life satisfaction in general, but according to the above conclusion, there is a link with sexual life;
The researcher noted that 58 of the men monitored, which had the highest score in the “loving relationship”, won more than those who had the lowest score in this chapter and have been more successful professionally, thereby a higher degree of satisfaction in life.
Another remarkable finding of the study is a very high significance for the lives of men, the relationship with their mothers. It seems that they are crucial for the welfare of men during their lifetime. “Men who had warm, pleasant relations with their mothers gained financially more than those that had a careless mother. Men who had cold relations with their mothers were more at risk of developing dementia. Their relationships with their mothers were also linked (associated) with work efficiency in adulthood. On the other hand, a good relationship with fathers was correlated with low level of anxiety, with better leisure and increased satisfaction with life after 75 years “.
As the author of the book noted, the most important finding of the study is as follows: “After 75 years and 20 million dollars spent on this huge study, the clear conclusion that emerges is: Happiness is love. Full stop. “