After 80 years of study, Harvard confirms at what age our happiness increases
“From the age of 60 onwards people are happier.”. It is one of the conclusions of a study that the Harvard University has been conducting for 80 years on happiness and which asserts that “everyone can make positive turns in life” and that what marks “a good life” is the quality of relationships.
In preparing the study, the lives of two of the following were closely followed. generations of individuals from the same families in the United States and thousands of interviews have been conducted, in addition to collecting test tubes with their blood, data on their physical and mental health and even received donations of some brains.
From the work done, its third director, psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, has concluded, together with psychologist Marc Schulz, that neither childhood nor the natural disposition nor the neighborhood in which you grew up marks your destiny; that loneliness hurts and that “living surrounded by loving relationships protects our body and mind”.
“Living surrounded by loving relationships protects our body and mind.”
And all this they have captured in the book. “A Good Life” (Planeta)which Waldinger has discussed with several Spanish media.
Happier at older ages
“We think it’s because we have the sense of the limits of life. and that death is real, and that makes us happier because we change our lives. We take obligations off our shoulders, friendships that don’t make us happy or meetings that we don’t like,” Waldinger explains.
This major happiness is also because the brain places more value on the positive than on the negative. and prioritizes what makes us happy in a period in which there are still things to learn and develop. “We are emotionally wiser and that wisdom makes us flourish,” stresses the psychiatrist.
The change in the concept of happiness since 1938
The also psychoanalyst explains that the first generations had a purpose to more social life and now most are pursuing the hedonistic happinesssomething that in the World War II period was not very well regarded.
However, Waldinger cannot answer the question of whether the today’s society makes us happierHe explains that there are many variables: “screens make us happier and less happy at the same time, the increase in economic well-being does the same, and we know more about violence in the world than before, even though it is safer and healthier”.
How to maintain happiness
The Harvard Professor of Psychiatry asserts that looking at the stories of thousands of lives studied, among them those of J.F Kennedy or journalist Bob Woodward, it is clear that the happiest people are those who maintain their relationships.
And in this sense, he recommends practicing the “good social form.”and actively nurture these relationships.
Waldinger calls the myth of the self-made man a fiction: “all of us are connected to the whole world and we need each other“.
And he stresses that, regardless of generation, women have a better understanding of the importance of maintaining relationships. relative to men, who “do not work as actively at maintaining them.”
Loneliness is very dangerous physically
On the strength of the study and other research, he asserts that loneliness is very dangerous physically because it makes the diseases of old age to develop earlier. and more severe (cardiovascular problems, diabetes, joint diseases, etc).
And he believes that this is due to the stress and the impossibility of telling what happens to us: “when I can complain to another person I can feel that the body regains its balance; the person alone cannot calm it down, while the one who has relationships can”.
“When I can complain with another person I can feel the body regain its balance.”
Waldinger refers to the unwanted lonelinesssince it states that introverted people “take energy from being alone”, contrary to what happens to extroverts, who get it from others.
He therefore recommends reflecting on the needs we each have in terms of relationships and solitude, bearing in mind that there is variability during life and during the course of the day.
While acknowledging that the pandemic of covid has greatly raised the rates of depression and anxietyreveals that these problems began to rise in the mid-1950s, when the “pandemic of loneliness” that television sets originated.
To “the screens” also blames the increase of loneliness in the 21st century, because a person has two or three functioning at the same time and “neither looks at nor attends to others.”
Earning a lot of money does not increase happiness
Cites psychiatrist cites studies showing that money is important for meeting the necessities of life and which put the amount of welfare in the United States at around 75,000 euros per year.
“But, once you have that money, 70 million more does not increase happiness,” stresses Waldinger, and bases his opinion on work done with lucky lottery winners: “before winning and a year later they have the same levels of happiness.”
The Harvard professor highlights as positive the case of one of the families studied in which the father, Leo DeMarco, a high school teacher, used money as a means to achieve some personal satisfactions and goals that connected him with the people he loved, as opposed to situations in which it becomes the goal rather than a tool.
In this connection, the psychiatrist explains that the capitalism is a good system for many things, but not for happiness, as it gives us continuous messages of what we need buy a lot of things to be happy, which is not true.
“We know that buying experiences makes us happier and for longer than buying things.”
“We know that buying experiences makes us happier and for longer than buying things,” he stresses.
There is no such thing as a perfect life
“It is quite possible to believe that other people have perfect lives and that we are the only ones who don’t, and that’s not true,” emphasizes the director of the study after analyzing thousands of life histories.
In this regard, he refers to the role of the influencers today, whom he describes as “models without filters and people who are famous for the sake of being famous”, who are mostly concerned only with appearance and wealth, and who are generating many depressions among the youth who “consume those unreal lives“.
An endless study
Robert Waldinger, for whom a good life is to work on things that matter to him.being connected to people he cares about and involved in activities that are meaningful to him, bodes well for the study of happiness.
He reveals that now the team of psychologists he leads is collecting data with the children of the first interviewees. (baby boomers), who are asked about social networks and the effects of covid, among other issues.