Thursday, July 13, 2023

Book Review: The Good Life

Next up for review is The Good Life, by Dr. Robert Waldinger and Dr. Marc Schulz. The authors are the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.


The main focus of this book is to report on the findings of the 84-year Harvard Study of Adult Development. In 1938, 268 sophomores at Harvard University and 456 inner city Boston 14-year-old boys initiated a lifelong study to learn what makes people healthy and happy. They were sent questionnaires and interviewed regularly throughout their lifespan. The study actually continues to this day for the offspring of the original members. The book has 351 pages. It is well written and I really enjoyed reading it.

5 Things I Really Liked About The Good Life

1) The main conclusion of this research is that the quality of our relationships is the most important factor determining our health and happiness throughout our lives. Most of us focus on making money, having career success and status in an effort to make us happy and it turns out they don’t matter that much at all. I found this fascinating.

2) Most of the research that I have conducted and read focuses on length of life and disease risk reduction. I like that this study also looked at happiness and quality of life, which is every bit as important as length of days.

3) The fact that this study has gone on for 84 years with 84% follow-up is amazing.

4) I like how the authors used participant’s interview question answers over the years to illustrate how relationships, good or bad, had a huge impact on their happiness.

5) I also like how the book invites us to review the relationships in our own life and offers suggestions to improve them in both in number and quality.

5 Things I Didn’t Agree With In The Good Life

1) I wish the book was not so laser focused on relationships. There was a lot of data on other lifestyle choices that impacted happiness and health that were mentioned very quickly. I wish they were fleshed out a bit.

2) As a quantitative researcher, I was looking for some numbers and statistics to back up the claims made by the authors. For example, there are objective surveys to determine happiness and quality of life. Were these administered for any part of the follow-up? If they were, the impact of distinct lifestyle habits could have been tested statistically.

3) Similar to point #1, the authors mention that exercise was very important for health and happiness but didn’t really go into it. I would have love to see a whole chapter on this topic.

4) Ditto for the impact of nutrition and body weight on our health and happiness.

5) The authors mention a bit about how money was not really associated with happiness. I found this fascinating and would have loved a whole chapter on the impact of money on health and happiness.

Is The Good Life Worth Reading?

Absolutely! This book covers some really important research regarding how our relationships impact our health and happiness. It provides the reader with an opportunity to evaluate the relationships in his or her life and offers tips on how to nurture them. Although I would have liked to see more data on other lifestyle choices, this is a really important book and definitely worth a look.

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