One of Longest-Running Psychological Studies of All-Time Concludes Relationships with Other People Matter More than Anything Else

The following is an excerpt I’ve selected from Shawn Achor’s 2010 book titled, The Happiness Advantage.

The Harvard Men Study followed 268 men from their entrance into college in the late 1930s all the way through the present day. From this wealth of data, scientists have been able to identify the life circumstances and personal characteristics that distinguished the happiest, fullest lives from the least successful ones. In the summer of 2009, George Vaillant, the psychologist who directed this study for 40 years, told the Atlantic Monthly that he could sum up the findings in one word: “Love – full stop.” Could it really be so simple? Vaillant wrote his own follow-up article that analyzed the data in great detail, and his conclusions proved the same: that there are “70 years of evidence that our relationships with other people matter, and matter more than anything else in the world.”

So, think about what this means relative to school connectedness, students having friends and having meaningful relationships with other people in their lives. We know well over half of students involved in school shootings were described as being loners or not having friends. Again, not to draw those connections with a bold black marker, as school shooters are a very small population set across varied contexts, but from my keyboard, I see the benefits of working with students on how to form meaningful, validating relationships. It might make an impact on a potential school shooter, and the side effects of relationships are validated by the study mentioned above (and others). An added benefit — innovation happens in safe, risk-taking environments with others — it does not happen in isolation. The connected child will also be prone to innovation. Can you be innovative without functioning in meaningful relationships with others? Perhaps we can pinpoint a few recluse, benign whiz kids, but as a whole – do any of us really function at our best in isolation? Think about it.