In 1939 a study of adult development began. This study known as The Grant Study is the longest study of normal male adult development ever undertaken. It focused on the lives of a group of 268 physically and mentally healthy young Harvard college sophomores from the classes of 1939 through 1944. It ran in tandem with a study called “The Gluek Study” of 456 disadvantaged non delinquent inner-city youths who grew up in Boston neighborhoods.
Included in the study were four members who ran for the U.S. Senate, one who served in a presidential Cabinet and one U.S. President, John F Kennedy. The study has run over 75 years and is still ongoing. These men now in their late seventies to nineties were sent quetionnaires at least every two years garnering information about their mental and physical health, career enjoyment, retirement experience and marital quality. The goal of the study was to identify predictors of healthy aging.
Psychiatrist, George Vaillant who directed the study for more than three decades shared many of the insights yielded from study in his book Triumphs of Experience:
- Regardless of how we begin life, we all can become happier.
- It is the capacity for intimate relationships that predicts flourishing in all aspects of life.
- There are two pillars of happiness; “One is love, the other is finding a way of coping with life that doesn’t push love away.”
- The quality of vacations in younger years – the ability to play – is a greater indicator of late-life happiness than income.
- A man’s situation at 50 years has more to do with ones health and happiness at 70 than what happens earlier.
- Alcoholism was the main cause of divorce between the men and their wives.
- Alcoholism strongly correlates with neurosis and depression, which tended to follow alcohol abuse, rather then precede it.
- Alcoholism combined with smoking, was the single greatest contributor to early morbidity and death.
- There was no significant difference in the maximum income of men with 150+ IQs and those with IQs of 110 – 115.
- Men who scored highest for “warm relationships” earned an average of $141,000 a year more at their peak salaries (usually ages 55 – 60).
- Men who had “warm” relationships with their mothers earned significantly higher incomes than men with uncaring mothers.
- Dementia was much more likely in men with poor childhood relationships with their mothers.
- The men’s early relationships with their mothers were associated with effectiveness at work. This was not true of their relationships with their father.
- By age 75, the warmth of childhood relationships with mothers had no significant bearing on the men’s rating of “life satisfaction”.
- The warmth of childhood relationship with fathers correlated lower rates of adult anxiety.
- Childhood warmth of father relationships correlated with enjoyment of vacations.
- At age 75 the warmth of childhood relationships with fathers increased the “life satisfaction” rating of participants.
In summarizing the study, Mr. Vaillant states; “Love is really all that matters. Happiness is the cart. Love is the horse.” This is a really interesting study and I have barely scratched the surface of its findings. Below is a link to a short video of George Vaillant. I think you’ll enjoy listening to his wisdom.
For now, Earlynn’s just sayin’: “We’ve known it all along. Love is the key. It’s very satisfying to see it confirmed.”
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