The Pursuit Of Happiness: What Harvard’s 85-Year Study Reveals

Manavi Agarwal

Last Updated: September 30, 2023
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Have you ever wondered what the secret to a happy and fulfilling life truly is? Well, it turns out that Harvard University has been on a quest to uncover just that for the past 85 years. This groundbreaking study, known as the Harvard Study of Adult Development, has followed the lives of over 700 men, tracking their physical and emotional well-being from youth to old age. But be warned, the findings are not all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, they reveal some harsh truths that might just change the way you think about happiness. So, what are these seven brutal realities that Harvard’s 85-year study of happiness has unveiled? Buckle up because we’re about to dive into them, and they might challenge some of your preconceived notions.

7 Harsh Truths From The Study


Relationships Matter More Than You Think

Imagine being 80 years old, reflecting on your life’s journey. What stands out as your most cherished treasure? Surprisingly, it’s not the material possessions or accomplishments; it’s the quality of your relationships that truly matter. Harvard’s extensive study on happiness reveals that nurturing close, supportive, and loving relationships with family, friends, and even your community can be the key to a long and fulfilling life. So, don’t underestimate the profound impact of the connections you cultivate over the years. Invest your time and effort in these bonds, as they can be the foundation of your happiness.

Loneliness Can Be Deadly

On the flip side of the happiness spectrum lies a formidable adversary: loneliness. It’s not merely a fleeting feeling of emptiness; it can have dire consequences for your health. The Harvard study uncovered a sobering truth – social isolation can lead to shorter lifespans, increased vulnerability to various diseases, and a pervasive sense of reduced well-being. It’s a silent killer that can creep into your life if left unchecked. Thus, the importance of surrounding yourself with people who bring joy, meaning, and connection to your life cannot be overstated. Reach out, foster friendships, and be an active participant in your community to combat the pernicious effects of loneliness.

Quality Trumps Quantity In Friendships

In a world where friend counts on social media profiles seem to matter, Harvard’s research offers a refreshing perspective. It’s not about the number of friends you can accumulate; it’s the depth of your relationships that truly counts. The Harvard researchers made a fascinating discovery: having a few close friends, individuals you can truly rely on, is far more beneficial than having a vast social circle. These deep connections provide invaluable emotional support, reducing stress and increasing overall happiness. So, focus on building meaningful, nurturing friendships that stand the test of time. These genuine connections will be your anchor in the tumultuous sea of life.

Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword

Welcome to the age of social media, where our lives are on display, filtered through carefully crafted profiles and timelines. While these platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer opportunities to stay connected, Harvard’s study unveils a darker side. Excessive use and the constant comparisons with others can lead to profound feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. It’s crucial to recognise that what you see online often represents a curated snapshot of someone’s life, not the full story. So, as you scroll through your social media feeds, do so mindfully. Nurture and prioritise your real-world connections alongside your virtual ones. Remember that the true richness of life lies beyond the pixels on a screen.

Purpose Trumps Payment

In a world that often measures success by income and career achievements, Harvard’s study throws us a curveball: purpose reigns supreme over payment. While financial stability is undoubtedly important, finding deep meaning and purpose in your work and life can be a more potent source of happiness. Pursuing a career that aligns with your passions and values can lead to a profound sense of fulfilment, far outweighing the allure of a hefty paycheck. So, as you navigate your professional journey, don’t forget to seek out opportunities that resonate with your sense of purpose. You’ll find that the joy derived from making a difference can be the true currency of happiness.

Health Is Wealth


Your health is the greatest treasure you possess, and Harvard’s study underscores this point emphatically. Taking care of your physical and mental well-being should be your top priority on the path to happiness. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and effective stress management are all crucial elements in the recipe for a happy and long life. After all, how can you fully embrace life’s pleasures if you’re not feeling your best? Prioritise self-care, listen to your body, and make choices that promote both physical and mental wellness. Your health is the foundation upon which your happiness is built.

It’s Never Too Late To Improve Your Happiness

Perhaps one of the most liberating truths from Harvard’s study is the belief that it’s never too late to enhance your happiness. Regardless of your age or life stage, you possess the power to make positive changes in your life. Start today by cultivating meaningful relationships, pursuing your passions, and prioritising your well-being. Happiness is not a destination; it’s a lifelong journey, and every step you take toward self-improvement counts. Embrace the belief that you have the agency to shape your own happiness, and let this knowledge be your guiding light on your path to a more fulfilling life.

Turning Truths Into A Happier Life With Mentoria


Navigating the complexities of life in pursuit of happiness is no small feat. As we’ve delved into the seven harsh truths uncovered by Harvard’s 85-year study of happiness, we’ve gained profound insights into the human experience. From the importance of cultivating relationships to the surprising revelation that happiness truly is contagious, these truths offer us a roadmap to a more fulfilling life.

But as we reflect on these truths, it’s important to remember that the journey to happiness is a personal one, and each individual’s path is unique. That’s where Mentoria steps in. We understand that the pursuit of happiness often intersects with the pursuit of a fulfilling career and life’s purpose. Our dedicated team of mentors and career counsellors is here to guide you through life’s challenges, offering expert advice and support along the way.