The truth is that you could be the smartest man on the planet and still not be happy. The same goes for wealth. You could be a literal billionaire and still be living a miserable, unsatisfying life. We’ve all seen how many rich, attractive, famous people end up in rehab being treated for depression and related issues, even though it seems to the rest of the world like they have it all – clearly, they don’t.
The fact is that neither money, fame nor intelligence guarantees happiness; it’s a completely separate agent. In fact, intelligence has actually been found to be negatively correlated with happiness in some research studies. It appears that in some cases, knowing a lot and having deep wisdom can be somehow associated with being less happy.
Intelligence and Money Don’t Bring Happiness
Take a look at comedians, for example. In order to be funny you have to be smart – as it takes skill and a complex understanding of life to be able to turn things into humor. However, many comedians are known to suffer from low mood and depression, and even though they are able to make sold-out stadiums erupt with laughter and bring happiness to the masses; it seems that they are unable to use their intelligence and humor to do the same for themselves.
Jim Carey and Robbin Williams are two high-profile examples of incredibly smart, funny men who have struggled to secure happiness within their own lives.
And honestly, this makes me think – what is the point of having a super-intelligent brain if you are unable to use it to make yourself happy? And if smartness, success, and money aren’t the answer to long-term happiness for men – then what is?
The Harvard Study
The good thing about this question is that we have a pretty reliable, comprehensive answer.
Because living a happy life versus a miserable one is indeed a very desirable thing, the topic of what constitutes a happy life has been the subject of several studies. The most notable of which is called “The Harvard Study of Adult Development”. This has been the most comprehensive, long-term study of male health and happiness ever conducted, and it’s still continuing today.
In 1938 scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard male sophomores during the Great Depression. The study’s aim was to identify what contributes to living a happy and healthy life. Now nearly 80 years on and counting, the study has yielded a ton of invaluable data. The researchers who initially began it, have more information than they ever could have hoped for.
From the original cohort of men, only 19 were still living at the last audit, and all were in their mid-90s. Included in the original study was J.F Kennedy, who would later go on to become The President of the United States.
During the study, researchers recorded a wide variety of data relating to the health and the entire life trajectories of the men. This included their career paths, marriages, divorces, whether or not they had children, their physical and mental health, happiness, and their comparative successes or failures.
The wealth of data produced has been so rich that it has allowed psychologists and researchers to identify some clear factors that can influence whether or not men stay happy and healthy across their lifetime.
What Makes Men Happy in the Long Term?
If men are looking for long-term, stable happiness and well-being across their lifetimes, numerous studies have indicated that money and success are more likely to bring short-term happiness, but that this eventually wears off over time. Whereas The Harvard Study found that in fact, one of the most powerful indicators of men’s long-term health and happiness was the quality of their personal relationships.
Men with close and crucially POSITIVE, mutually supportive relationships with partners, family, friends, and their wider community scored higher on all measures of happiness, health, well-being, life satisfaction, and even life span.
Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School reported:
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health”
The findings from the study clearly show that positive close relationships, more so than money, success, or fame – predict how happy and healthy men’s lives will be, and even how long they will live. Good relationships were found to be a more powerful influencing factor than social class, IQ, or even genetics.
What I love about this study is the fact that it was initially, solely conducted on men, which means that all of the data is specifically related to only the male gender. And this allows us to draw upon solid evidence that relates solely to men, without any ambiguity around differences between sex, gender or biology, etc.
Considering that knowledge is power, this information gives men the power to be aware of the significance that the quality of their personal relationships has on every other aspect of their lives, including their mental and physical health.
Therefore, it should be a priority for men to invest in, focus on, and prioritize their time and efforts towards maintaining positive, happy close relationships with their family, romantic partners, friends, and colleagues as the benefits for their own physical and mental well-being are undeniable.
- men-hanging-out: Connor Wilkins via Unsplash
- happiness-header: D Jonez via Unsplash