In 1938, George Vaillant began the Grant Study, a longitudinal study of adult development that would last more than 75 years. The primary goal of this study was to identify predictors of healthy aging. The study is limited in that it studied only the lives of white men. The unique needs and circumstances of other demographic groups must also be accounted for. However, the Grant Study is the longest ongoing study of adult development, and it has much to offer when considering happiness and satisfaction across a person’s lifespan. Here are some key lessons learned from the Grant Study:
- While factors such as physical health and social advantage matter; the most important factor for the development of a happy life is the quality of relationships in a person’s life. This is consistent with what we teach in the Mandt System. We believe that healthy relationships lead to a higher quality of life.
- It’s the big picture that counts. Often people who struggled early in adulthood are able to find happiness as their life progresses. Hope is a powerful internal factor that can build a person’s resilience, helping them to recover from adversity.
- The good things that happen in childhood are better predictors of later life happiness than the things that go wrong. A warm childhood gives a person a significant boost on the path to happiness and joy in life. Healthy relationships between parents and children build a strong foundation for development across the lifespan.
- Coping strategies that allow a person to manage stress in a healthy manner are vital to long term health and happiness. At the Mandt System, we utilize various tools to help a person identify stressors in their life and the lives of those around them. Once these stressors are identified, the tools of the Mandt System allow the person to cope with those stressors in a healthy way.
- Loneliness is deadly. Human beings are a social species, we thrive when we create healthy connections to other people. We must do all that we can to maintain healthy relationships throughout our lives. We must be inclusive and help those who struggle with connection to be able to develop relationships in ways that feel safe to them. As we age, the sum of our relationships becomes the currency of our happiness.
John Windsor – Mandt System Technical Skills Specialist
Vaillant, G. (2002). Aging well: surprising guideposts to a happier life from the landmark Harvard study of adult development. Little, Brown, and Company.
Valiant, G. (2012). Triumphs of experience: the men of the harvard grant study. Belknap Press.