The Keys to Healthy Aging

Study shows the secrets to living well.

The book “Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life From the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development,” by George Vaillant, MD, draws on a famous longitudinal study he directed for more than three decades involving 268 men over 72 years of age. This analysis is known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development (The Grant Study). Among the study’s subjects are a past president of the United States, a leading newspaper editor and a famous novelist.

Initially funded by department store magnate W.T. Grant, who hoped to find the ideal employee, the research, which began in 1938, became a quest to find the secrets to living well.

Seven major factors were found to predict healthy aging:

  1. Utilizing mature adaptations to life’s antagonists
  2. Education
  3. A stable marriage
  4. Not smoking
  5. Not abusing alcohol
  6. Some exercise
  7. A healthy weight

The most definitive finding, however, was that people who fared the best were those who leaned into relationships—with family, with friends and with community.

Three takeaways were mentioned by Robert Waldinger, MD, the current director of the study, which now tracks the baby boomer children of the original subjects:

  1. Social connections are really good.
  2. Quality over quantity.
  3. Good relationships protect our brains.

Physicians, too, can benefit from leaning into relationships, which can contribute to finding balance. For more information, visit these sources:

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