The Harvard Grant Study reveals what makes us happy, healthy and more fulfilled

Love is important for having a happy lifeI am excited – more results have recently been published about the Harvard Grant Study. Why do I find this exciting? This research gives great insights into what makes people healthy and happy. Harvard University Press says this is “the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken.” And some famous men were in the study. Wikipedia says that: “The study included four members who ran for the U.S. Senate. One served in a presidential Cabinet, and one was President John F. Kennedy.”

In June 2009 I wrote a blog post on the key findings of the research, which began in 1938. So the study is now in its 75th year (amazing!).

The study began with nearly 300 male Harvard University students. Throughout their lives, the men have been regularly examined, tested, interviewed and surveyed. The remaining participants are now aged in their 90s.

Carolyn Gregoire, from The Huffington Post (THP), is one of many writers from various news sources that have reported on the study’s key findings. She summarizes the study’s aims well. She says that it examines some of life’s most important questions: “… how we grow and change, what we value as time goes on, and what is likely to make us happy and fulfilled.”

THP recently spoke to Professor George Vaillant, the Harvard psychiatrist who led the study for many years. In 2012 Dr. Vaillant published a book about the study called Triumphs of Experience.

Gregoire lists the following five lessons from the Grant Study that we can apply to live a happier and more meaningful life.

  1. Love is the key to a happy and fulfilling life. Gregoire reports that: “A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy.”
  2. Power and making more money are not linked to greater happiness. Dr. Vaillant says: “In terms of achievement, the only thing that matters is that you be content at your work.”
  3. Regardless of how happy we begin life, we can all become happier.
  4. “Joy is connection… The more areas in your life you can make connection, the better,” Dr. Vaillant says. The study found that strong relationships are the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. And in regards to career satisfaction, feeling connected to our work is far more important than making money or achieving traditional success.
  5. Having mature and appropriate ways to cope with our problems can make us happier.

Read more of Gregoire’s article in The Huffington Post.

Diane Cole, from the Wall Street Journal, also spoke to Dr. Vaillant. A couple of Dr. Vaillant’s noteworthy findings that Cole mentions are that the more content people in the study had learned not to get upset over little things. “They had learned how to savor the things that had gone right.” And Dr. Vaillant recommends that:

“For anyone dealing with disappointment about lost opportunities, I would ask them to reframe the question and focus on what they gained by taking the paths they chose.”

For more details, check out Cole’s article in The Wall Street Journal.

James Bassil, from The Telegraph, is another notable reporter on the Grant Study. Here are two of Dr. Vaillant’s significant findings that Bassil lists:

1. “No man is happy throughout his entire life. Irrespective of how blessed or brilliant they were, virtually all of the Harvard Grant Study men endured tough times and tragedies.

2. Some men only become happy very late in life. But their lives, seen in their entirety, are not poorer for it. In fact, even when it comes late, happiness erases memories of all the unhappiness that preceded it.”

For more information, read Bassil’s article in The Telegraph.

So live a life full of love, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be socially connected.

written by Nyomi Graef

Bassil, J, 2013, Harvard Grant Study Reveals What Really Makes Men Happy, The Telegraph,

Cole, D, 2013, A Way to Get Past Regrets, The Wall Street Journal,

Grant Study, 2013, Wikipedia,

Gregoire, C, 2013, The 75-Year Study That Found The Secrets to a Fulfilling Life, The Huffington Post,

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, 2012,,

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, 2012, Harvard University Press,

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