A decades-long study including a former US president has found “the science of happiness” that has surprised some – but is obvious to others.
The Grant Study first began in 1938 with 268 Harvard-educated men and sought to measure their happiness levels across their lifetime.
The study eventually expanded to the children of the original participants to measure early-development and happiness levels
Trinity Professor Luke O’Neill told The Pat Kenny Show the research also evolved to include women, who were not allowed to attend Harvard at the time, and working-class people to create a “highly rated scientific” study.
The latest report of the study including 1,300 participants is the “most comprehensive ever found” and details the “science of happiness” - although the results may be obvious to many.
“They said this is a 'surprise' – it’s not about wealth at all,” Prof O’Neill said.
Prof O’Neill explained many of the participants went bankrupt or lost their jobs over the course of the study, but material objects were not “predictors of happiness”.
“In the end, it's obvious: human relationships,” he said. “That's the single most important factor for happiness. And loneliness is a killer.”
“People who ended up lonely... they had terrible outcomes. They often had drink problems. They were dying younger, and they were reporting real negative stuff in the questionnaire.”
The study also found that participants who were in stable marriages over the age of 50 were happier – and had lower cholesterol levels.
“But if you're in a toxic marriage at the age of 50, that was more damaging to your health,” Prof O’Neill said. “It's worse than being a smoker or a drinker.”
John F. Kennedy
Prof O’Neill explained several of the original Harvard participants became successful businessmen – and one US president.
“JFK was a student in 1938 and he was asked to be one of the people on the study, so they followed him until, sadly, his demise,” he said.
While the former president’s personal results were never released for privacy reasons, Prof O’Neill said JFK spoke highly of the study as he was participating.
“[He said] ‘it's wonderful this going on, we might learn how to design our society to see how to help people live a happier life’.”