For more than 75 years, Harvard researchers have been tracking a group of graduates of the university in an attempt to learn what makes people happy and healthy. Another Harvard team focused on a different group – young men from poor Boston neighborhoods who managed to stay out of trouble despite coming from the kinds of homes that often produce delinquents. Over the years, the two groups melded.
Thus far, the study has concluded that alcohol was a primary contributor to divorce, that alcohol abuse often precedes depression (rather than depression leading to drinking), that not smoking is the best way to promote healthy aging, and that liberals had longer and more active sex lives than conservatives.
Perhaps more importantly, the study showed that the most consistent positive influence on health and well-being is the strength of relationships with friends and family, particularly with spouses. In fact, it found that people with the strongest family relationships were least likely to develop chronic diseases, mental illness or memory problems. That goes for people who cultivated other relationships, too – those who maintained ties outside the home with colleagues at work or friendships formed after retirement.
The findings of this ongoing study fit right in with my views on the need for meaningful connections in life – to a mate, lover, friends, family, work, hobby or pet. I wrote in my book 8 Weeks to Optimum Health about the risks to health of what I call disconnectedness. When we lack connections to families, tribes and communities, we suffer physically and emotionally. You can eat well, supplement prudently, breathe deeply and exercise daily, but if you are disconnected, you will not enjoy the full benefits of optimum health.
Whatever your age, your hormones impact your health so if there are areas that need attention such as stress, mood swings, weight gain or any other symptoms associated with hormone imbalance then tackling those will also go a long way to improving your overall health.