For a little over 80 years, Harvard Medical School has been studying what causes happiness. As part of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the world’s longest studies of adult life. Researchers have collected a plethora of data on their physical and mental health.
It all started when scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores in 1938 during the Great Depression. They hoped the study would reveal clues on leading healthy and happy lives. Of the original study subjects, only 19 are still alive, all in their late-90s. Among the original recruits were the up-and-coming President John F. Kennedy and longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. Women were not in the original study because the College was still all-male at that time.
1. The Study
Following these Harvard Grads for the past 80 years, this project was named the ‘Grant Study’. Additionally, scientists eventually expanded their research to include their children as well. Who now number 1,300 and are in their 50s and 60s. To find out how early life experiences affect health and aging over time. Some participants went on to become successful businessmen, doctors, lawyers, while others ended up as schizophrenics or alcoholics.
During the next few decades, the control groups have expanded. In the 1970s, there were an additional 456 Boston residents also enlisted. They were 12 to 16-year-old boys who grew up in inner-city Boston. This study was led by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck, as part of what was named the ‘Glueck Study’. More than a decade ago, researchers began to include the participant’s wives from the Grant and Glueck studies as well.