By Annette Pinder

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the longest-running studies on happiness and well-being in the world. Conducted by Dr. Robert Waldinger, the study took place for over 80 years, and has provided valuable insights into what factors contribute to happiness and well-being in life. The findings of the study have important implications for individuals, families, and society as a whole, highlighting the importance of strong relationships in achieving a fulfilling and happy life.

The goal of the study was to determine who will become active and vigorous octogenarians and who will age poorly; finding what experiences in childhood are more predictive of midlife health; discovering if parents’ thriving marriages predict thriving marriages among their children; learning how adolescents and young adults can build lives of meaning and purpose amid rapid social and technological change; and understanding how lifestyle choices are linked to how long we live.

Large samples of individuals from various backgrounds and cultures were surveyed to gather data on their happiness levels and the factors that influence them. Not surprisingly, the results showed that relationships and social connections are the most important factor for happiness and well-being. This was consistent across different cultures and backgrounds, emphasizing the universal importance of strong relationships in our lives.

Individuals who had strong social connections and relationships with friends and family reported higher levels of happiness and well-being compared to those who lacked these relationships. Additionally, the study found that individuals who practiced gratitude and mindfulness regularly, as well as those who had a strong sense of purpose and direction in life, also reported higher levels of happiness. Regular physical exercise was also positively associated with happiness levels.

The study also found that success in terms of wealth, fame, and career was not a significant factor in attaining happiness and well-being in life. While success in career, wealth, and fame may bring temporary satisfaction and pleasure, it was not found to have a lasting impact on happiness and well-being.

For those who regret not focusing on establishing meaningful relationships in their lives, Dr. Waldinger notes that while it may be more difficult to form new relationships or strengthen existing ones as we grow older, it is never too late to make the effort and reap the benefits of social connections in our lives. A simple text or phone call to someone we’ve been thinking about is a great way to start.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development provides valuable insights into what factors contribute to happiness and well-being in life. By understanding the importance of strong relationships and incorporating other positive habits and practices into our daily lives, we can experience greater happiness and fulfillment. The findings are a testament to the power of relationships in shaping our happiness and well-being, and serve as a reminder of the importance of investing in these relationships in our lives, regardless of age.

Learn more at