Good Relationships Make Us Healthier & Happier: Harvard Study - Hope 103.2

Good Relationships Make Us Healthier & Happier: Harvard Study

A landmark study stretching over 75 years has shown that quality relationships are one of the main keys to health and happiness for humans.

By Clare BruceFriday 22 Jul 2016Hope MorningsHealth and WellbeingReading Time: 2 minutes

Listen: Collett Smart chats to Emma Mullings about latest findings on relationships and happiness

A landmark study stretching over 75 years has shown that quality relationships are one of the main keys to health and happiness for humans.

The Study of Adult Development, conducted by Harvard University, combines research into more than 700 people and the way they developed throughout their adulthood.

Watch: Robert Waldinger, director of the 75-year-old study on adult development

Hope 103.2’s go-to psychologist, Collett Smart, said the study proved that fame, wealth and career success were not keys to wellbeing, but that relationships were far more important.

“I think as humans we’re just made for relationships,” she said. “More and more we’re seeing that relationships are one of the main building blocks to increasing resilience, but they also have enormous benefits for overall wellbeing.”

“These men that they started the [Harvard] study with are now in their 90s and really what the sum-total of the study after all these years shows, is that good relationships keep us happier and healther—full-stop.”

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Good Relationships Improve Health & Longevity

Senior women friendship

The study Harvard shows that people with more connections to family and friends and community are less lonely, more happy and likely to live longer. Conversely, people who lead an isolated life are less happy have a shorter life-span.

And it’s not only our emotions that improve with good relationships, but also our physical health, including our brain functioning.

“Other studies confirm that lack of social connection is more detrimental to our health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure,” Collett said. “It’s incredible.”

Marriage Is Not Essential – Just Warm, Positive Relationships

Collett was quick to point out that being in a committed relationship like a marriage, though, was not required for happiness. Health-giving social connections can come from family, friends, workmates and neighbours.

“It’s about the quality of your close relationships,” she said. “So having good, warm relationships is a protective factor.

“We even see it in brain imaging. When we’re rejected or experience social pain, it indicates that our brains hurt in the same way as it does when we experience physical pain.

“It’s amazing seeing all this research supporting what we’ve already known about relationships.”