The Harvard Gazette has just published a fascinating article on a long term study into the makings of a healthy life. In addition to the merits of the article itself, I’m particularly interested as the project’s director, Bob Waldinger, a friend who is also an old Zen hand, a Dharma teacher with the Boundless Way Zen network and leader of the Zen meditation group at Mass General Hospital.
The unsigned article begins:
“For 74 years, one of the longest-running studies of normal adult development has been examining not disease and illness, but what may be life’s magic question: How can you live long and happy?
The answers that have emerged — and are still emerging — are surprising and obvious both. Having a difficult childhood, for example, matters a lot in early adulthood, but its effects fade as the years go by. Among those who had tough beginnings, self-starters who seek out jobs as kids do better than those who don’t. And education — specifically going to college — is more important than money or social status in determining lifetime success.
More recently, the study’s aging subjects have shown that one’s situation at age 50 has more to do with one’s health and happiness at 70 than what happened earlier in life. And surprisingly, the quality of vacations younger in life — a measure of the ability to play — is a better indicator of late-life happiness than income.”