Harvard Study of Adult Development
In this blog, and, I guess, in general, I am mostly concerned with large, broad datasets. But sometimes, really narrow and deep datasets can be very interesting. A case in point is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, led by George Vaillant, where two groups of men – one consisting of Harvard graduates and the other of men from inner-city neighborhoods in Boston – have been studied during 68 years (!) from adolescence up to now.
You should go to an article in The Atlantic describing the study right now and read it – it’s fascinating. What I took away from the article is how variable a person’s fortunes are and how weak the link often is between external success and inner state of mind. The aim of the study is identify predictors of healthy and happy aging. The subjects completed questionnaires about there life situation every two years, and in addition many of them were interviewed in depth at various stages of their lives.
According to the Atlantic article, basically the only strong predictor for a happy old age seems to be having good friends and a good relationship with your family (especially siblings). Granted, the subjects were not exactly a random sample of the population – one of the persons in the Harvard cohort eventually became president of the United States! (Read the article to find out who it was.) Still, a very interesting study.