What is the purpose of our existence? How can I live longer?
Two questions deliberated on for many years throughout human existence. The Harvard Study of Adult Development is perhaps the most insightful look so far into human development, behaviour and happiness. The main sentiment from the almost 80-year long study is the importance that relationships play in human happiness. The modern world we are living in has many factors behind the ever-growing societal loneliness.
We live in the least community-based time in existence. In the western world, many of us are now working online and from home, and if we aren’t, we are commuting to and from a desk job in silence. Or perhaps we're living in a different city, or even country from our loved ones in the pursuit of money, opportunity, experience, and success. Often our ambitions are geared toward success, and our drive to become rich or famous. We are ignoring the need for interaction.
In combination with this, we recently delved into phone addiction. Read this blog to see the growing problem of phone addiction and how forging connections through a multitude of communication apps, negatively impacts our mental health and makes us feel more isolated. We only have to look at evolution to see how crucial it is to have social bonds and how pivotal it is to our survival! So, let’s dive into the study and what we can do to nurture relationships.
WHAT IS THE STUDY?
In 1938, a group of researchers decided to look into adult development; specifically, their health and happiness, by intricately tracking the lives of 724 people. These were a combination of men who were Harvard graduates, then their children (and those children’s spouses), and for contrast a group of 12-16 year old Boston boys chosen by their lower socio-economic status. The study is mostly men as when the study began the college was still male-only. It has now become one of the longest adult development studies with a detailed analysis- through multi-platform interviews with the subject and their families and medical records of the participant’s health. They have followed their journeys to success or failure in career, health, and relationships.
Robert J Waldinger, who is the current director of the study, and a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School has summarised in his Ted Talk ‘What Makes A Good Life’
The studies key discoveries:
#1. People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to the community, are happier, they're physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.
#2. It's the quality of your relationships that matters.
#3.Society places emphasis on wealth and “leaning in” to work but over and over studies have shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned into relationships, with family, with friends, with community.
With the importance of relationships in mind, let’s look at the opposite; the immense physical and emotional problems caused by loneliness…
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.”
- Robert Waldinger
Aren’t aware of the dangers of loneliness and how they will indefinitely be affecting somebody you know?
Here are the latest findings:
#1.Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day 
#2. Loneliness is worse for you than obesity 
#3.Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease, and depression. 
#4.Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% 
#5.A joint report released by The Co-op and the British Red Cross revealed that over 9 million people in the UK of all adult ages –are either always or often lonely.
#6.Loneliness puts you more at risk of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, sleep deprivation- which then has a knock-on effect on your metabolism, and hormonal regulation 
More and more initiatives are taking place by the Government as we see the loneliness epidemic worsen. This has prompted many campaigns to prevent and tackle it. Two of the biggest in the UK being; Campaign to End Loneliness, and Let’s Talk Loneliness.
TIPS ON FEELING CONNECTED
#1.Nurture REAL connections with people already in your life. Get outdoors. Go for a walk, cycle, row, surf, have a picnic, try new a new class like dance, martial arts or art. Try new activities, and put your phone away! #2.Join clubs, teams or even form them yourself!
#3. Volunteer. There are so many charities for amazing causes. Being a part of something and giving back is great for the soul and feeling connected.
#4.If you’re feeling lonely -reach out. Call a friend, or family member when you’re starting to feel isolated or low. And remember you’re not alone.
#5.Finally, Waldinger’s tip -he swears by daily meditation and obviously invests a whole lot more time and energy in his relationships
Dr. Harry says:
“For me, happiness and gratitude are inextricably linked. If you’re chasing a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the likely result should be obvious. And while I used to actually believe that happiness was just the mere absence of sadness, a combination of gratitude for what I have, appreciation for the wonder of being alive and conscious, and attention to the importance of strong and loving relationships has led me to believe (and feel!) otherwise.”
 Waldinger, R. (2015). What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness?language=en#t-252418 [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019].
 Lunstad, H (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316[Accessed 18 Oct. 2019].
 Valtorta NK, Kanaan M, Gilbody S, et al (2016)
Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke: systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal observational studies Heart 2016;102:1009-1016. Available at: https://heart.bmj.com/content/102/13/1009.citation-tools. [Accessed 18 Oct. 2019]
 Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691614568352Available at:
 Red cross Coop (2016) Trapped in A Bubble. Available at: https://www.co-operative.coop/campaigning/loneliness[Accessed 16 Oct. 2019]
 Griffin, J.(2010). The Lonely Society. Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/the-lonely-society[Accessed Oct. 14 2019]
Shani Kaplan is a contributing writer for Truth Origins. She combines her knowledge gained from working within the fitness/wellness industry in Sydney and London for the last seven years as a Personal Trainer, and class instructor, with her addiction to research due to her BA in Business Marketing. Shani loves martial arts, resistance training, dance and yoga, nutrition, travel, design, photography, and art.