Secret to happiness? Family, friends and close relationships

Wed, Apr 6, 2016

Building and maintaining close relationships with family and friends is good for your health, a long-running study says.


The Grant Study, a 75-year study of human development, has tracked and interviewed 724 men, many of whom are now in their 90s. The ongoing study offers key findings on what’s good and not so good for your long-term health.


“So what have we learned? What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we've generated on these lives?” Robert Waldinger, a Harvard psychiatrist and current director of the study, asked during a recent TED Talk. “Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”


Waldinger urged against buying into the commercial projection of a good life – wealth, fame, career success. Those won’t bring health or happiness. What will ensure happiness, he says, is the work put into maintaining quality relationships with other people. Casual relationships, like those forged on social media don’t count. Neither do negative ones, as in the case of abusive relationships.

The study’s findings resonate with Dr. Lynn Wagner, an integrative lifestyle medicine physician with BayCare Clinic in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


“This is essentially what I preach to my patients,” she said. “Relationships and the importance of surrounding yourself with positive influences cannot be understated. I encourage my patients to focus more energy on family and friends and a little less on chasing that next promotion or raise. As this study is illustrating, it will be beneficial to your health later in life.”


BayCare Clinic Integrative Lifestyle Medicine is a patient care philosophy designed to treat the whole person – mind, body and spirit – not just disease or illness. Call 920-327-7056 for information or request an appointment online.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.