cover image The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness

Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz. Simon & Schuster, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-982-16669-4

Waldinger and Schulz, director and co-director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, unpack in this fascinating outing some key findings of the landmark 84-year survey of human happiness. Beginning in 1938, a group of 724 male participants submitted to interviews every two years; the now three-generation enterprise involves their approximately 1,300 descendants (the study now also includes female descendants). Researchers have pinpointed one vital ingredient for happiness: good relationships. The authors paint vivid portraits of participants, among them Leo DeMarco—a high school teacher who defined himself by his relationships, and was one of the study’s happiest participants—and John Marsden, a successful lawyer certain that his “career...would bring him happiness... [but who] was never able to find a path to joy.” As well, the authors explain the health benefits that positive social relationships can confer (promoting a stronger immune system), and share tips for cultivating strong relationships (consciously using empathy to help connect) and weathering challenges within them (striving for “reflective” rather than “reflexive” responses to difficult situations). Exercises and prompts appear throughout and are intended to help readers recognize and maintain the connections they value. Combining intensive research with actionable steps, this penetrating testament to the power of human connection offers gems for almost anyone looking to improve their happiness. (Jan.)