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A Longer Happier Life?

A Longer Happier Life?

Hello and good day!

I had the chance recently to listen to an interview with Robert Waldinger. Robert Waldinger is director of the Lifespan Research Foundation.The Lifespan Research Foundation has been conducting the longest running study on human happiness and longevity ever carried out.

They've been following and studying hundreds of people of different socioeconomic backgrounds for the last 85 years.

There are several key points from the interview that really stood out to me.

First, the overall thrust of the study's findings is that relationships matter more than anything else when it comes to living a happy life.

Second is that relationships facilitate better health. This one is pretty interesting.

The foundation has a few theories as to how the mechanics of this work, but they feel pretty certain that the data shows a causal relationship.

In other words, good relationships cause better health.

So, if you want to be healthier, instead of working on your health, you could focus on better relationships and your health would improve as a byproduct. That is fascinating.

In fact, looking back on the data, the researchers found that they could predict longevity with surprising accuracy using quality of relationships as the predictive factor. This was a better way of predicting human lifespan than medical metrics like weight, or cholesterol, or blood pressure.

The way they did that was looking at people's lives when they were 50 and then trying to guess how long they would live. Relationships were the best predictor.

Third was that it isn't how many relationships people have, it is the quality of the relationships. And along these lines, you can replace an ended relationship with a new one, as long as it is high quality.

Fourth was that loneliness is as good a predictor of early death as genetic predisposition to disease. That is just unbelievable. Of course, this is all statistical and individual cases will vary.

But on the whole, you are more likely to be better off health and happiness wise being born with bad genes than being lonely.

Fifth is that wealth and accomplishment won't make you happier or live longer than good relationships.

There was one caveat to that one though. Relationships are the defining factor after a minimum household income is met, roughly the amount a person needs to earn to afford health insurance. After that, better relationships contribute more to wellbeing than more money. Below the threshold, you may die from an easily curable disease and expected lifespan is reduced.

Sixth is that bad relationships, for example an unhappy marriage, living in an abusive household, living in a dangerous neighborhood, or working in a high conflict environment are terrible for your health.

Seventh is that religion alone is a neutral factor, but positive if it helps bolster relationships.

There are more, but those are the ones that stuck with me off the top of my head.Here is one thing I know from doing business in Peru for a long time.

Per capita household income doesn't determine happiness. The United States averages about five times the household income of a Peruvian household. The comparison is far more extreme if you compare average US household income to what the cacao farmers we work with earn on average.

However, there is very little difference in how happy people seem.

This is purely anecdotal of course, because our experiences aren't scientific. But based on my experience, I'd call it a wash.

On average, a typical cacao farmer is just as happy as an average person in the United States. If they have a good family and friends, they'll be very happy.

If not, they'll be miserable. Just like the study says.

The big difference is that folks living on cacao farms don't cross the income threshold, so that affects average lifespan. But in terms of happiness, day in and day out, the fact that they have less material possessions on average truly does not appear to play into it.

I remember a gal who lived up the street from us. She was a very funny and interesting woman. She always used to stop and chat with me and the kids when we were out working in the yard.

Then her husband passed away and she started living by herself. Her kids lived elsewhere, and she didn't have many visitors. We visited her when we could, but it wasn't enough.

After a couple years living by herself, dementia set in, and her health started to deteriorate rapidly. The thing I found so sad about that situation was that she really wasn't very old. Just two years earlier she was in great shape in every way. This happened right before the COVID outbreak, so that contributed to her isolation.

The last thing I will mention before signing off is that in the study, the number one regret that people expressed toward the end of their lives was that they didn't spend more time with the people they loved. If they could go back and do it all again, that is what they would have done differently.

So, it all ties together. You minimize regrets. You live longer. You are happier and healthier. Good relationships are the thing to work on.

Chocolate helps with keeping relationships strong by the way :).

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!