This morning *Atlantic Monthly* placed an article from its June issue
online: “What Makes Us Happy?” by Joshua Wolf Shenk.

Here’s the intro: “Is there a formula–some mix of love, work, and
psychological adaptation–for a good life?  For 72 years, researchers at
Harvard have been examining this question, following 268 men who entered
college in the late 1930s through war, career, marriage and divorce,
parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age.

Here’s an excerpt: “Begun in 1937 as a study of healthy, well-adjusted
Harvard sophomores (all male), it has followed its subjects for more
than 70 years.”

Another excerpt: “Bock assembled a team that spanned medicine,
physiology, anthropology, psychiatry, psychology, and social work, and
was advised by such luminaries as the psychiatrist Adolf Meyer and the
psychologist Henry Murray. Combing through health data, academic
records, and recommendations from the Harvard dean, they chose 268
students–mostly from the classes of 1942, ’43, and ’44–and measured them
from every conceivable angle and with every available scientific tool.”

Another excerpt: “What allows people to work, and love, as they grow
old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant,
who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified
seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and
psychologically.”

Another excerpt: “What factors don’t matter? Vaillant identified some
surprises. Cholesterol levels at age 50 have nothing to do with health
in old age. While social ease correlates highly with good psychosocial
adjustment in college and early adulthood, its significance diminishes
over time. The predictive importance of childhood temperament also
diminishes over time: shy, anxious kids tend to do poorly in young
adulthood, but by age 70, are just as likely as the outgoing kids to be
‘happy-well.’ Vaillant sums up: ‘f you follow lives long enough, the
risk factors for healthy life adjustment change. There is an age to
watch your cholesterol and an age to ignore it.'”

Another excerpt: “The study has yielded some additional subtle
surprises. Regular exercise in college predicted late-life mental health
better than it did physical health. And depression turned out to be a
major drain on physical health: of the men who were diagnosed with
depression by age 50, more than 70 percent had died or were chronically
ill by 63. More broadly, pessimists seemed to suffer physically in
comparison with optimists, perhaps because they’re less likely to
connect with others or care for themselves.”

The article is online at:
<http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness&gt;.

courtesy of Ken Pope list

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