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Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness with Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  May 24, 2023

By the end of today’s episode, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel inspired to reconnect with an old friend, phone that family member you don’t see enough of, or make plans for a face-to-face get-together. You’ll feel happier, and even be healthier, if you do because the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.

My guests, Professors Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, are co-authors of The Good Life: Lessons From The World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. They are the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development which is an extraordinary research project that started all the way back in 1938 and is now in its 85th year. 

Robert is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.  He is also a Zen priest and meditation teacher. Marc is Professor of Psychology and Director of Data Science at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and is also a practicing therapist.

They are both passionate about spreading the crucial message that high-quality relationships are one of the biggest predictors of happiness, health and longevity and, therefore, prioritising how and with whom you spend your time may just be one of the most important things you can do for your mental and physical health.

We discuss, why loneliness increases our risk of death in comparable ways to smoking or obesity, and what this 85 year old study – spanning three generations – can teach all of us how to have a meaningful and satisfying life. Over eight decades, the study has followed the same participants and their families, taking biological measurements and asking detailed questions. Its goal has always been to understand contentment and what it really means to live a good life.

We talk about the different types of relationships and how toxic friendships and partnerships, can be damaging. We also discuss why frequency and quality both matter when it comes to our relationships, we talk about the importance for all of us to have one or two ‘securely attached’ relationships and importantly, we discuss the fact that vibrant social lives and close relationships, don’t come easily to everyone. 

Robert and Marc share some fantastic insights on what people can do if they are struggling, the importance of listening and being  ‘radically curious’ and how we can nurture better relationships with ourselves.

This really was an uplifting and inspiring conversation with two wonderful human beings. I hope you enjoy listening.

Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.*

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Watch the video version of the conversation here:

Find out about Marc and Robert:

Harvard Study of Adult Development

Robert’s Ted Talk      Twitter      

Marc and Robert’s book:

The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Study on Happiness

Related Feel Better Live More Episodes:

#177 How to Build Exceptional Relationships and Why You Should with David Bradford and Carole Robin

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*DISCLAIMER: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

†Disclosure: All books marked with a † are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We take part in Amazon’s affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon’s website. You are not charged any extra by using these links to purchase books.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP