Finding happiness in later life: What accounts for it?
The science of extending life is moving at an astounding pace. Research on topics ranging from organ regeneration to gene sequencing to molecular manipulation is altering our understanding of lifespan. Just this year, scientists “rejuvenated” the blood of the oldest living lab rat, enabling it to live longer than ever thought possible. What’s more, clinical trials are demonstrating results not just with animals, but with humans.
This is all great news if you’re an investor in Silicon Valley and/or someone who wants to live forever. (Cue the late, great Irene Cara, singing “I want to live Forever” in the title song of the musical, Fame.) Many of us are much more concerned with living the best life we can in the here and now, however, rather than living to 150. What does the research say about that?
A lot actually. But the innovation required to live a happy life is actually quite old-school. The longest-running longitudinal study on happiness has found time and again that “social fitness” is the key to happiness in life. This Harvard study traced the lives of 724 participants from all over the world and asked detailed questions about their lives at two-year intervals. The single most important trait of happy and well elders over the past 80-odd years the study has run has been healthy relationships, whether partners, friends and/or family. It gets better: people with strong relationships also lived longer.
Read the rest of this post over on This Curious Life to learn more about finding happiness in later life…