Originally published on Advisor Perspectives
I’m about to send a mixed message.
It’s important for you to be aware of the latest research on happiness, which is useful in your own life. Who doesn’t want to live a long time and be happy?
How much you share with your clients is another issue. You’re under a lot of pressure to demonstrate your value and justify your fees. This has tempted some advisors to expand their services into “life coaching.” While the goal is admirable, most advisors aren’t trained to provide this type of advice. Despite their good intentions, giving simplistic solutions to complex issues can cause significant harm.
With that caveat, I want to share an impressive study on happiness with you. The ramifications of the findings of this study are profound.
The Harvard study
The Harvard Study of Adult Development (discussed in detail here) started in 1938 and continues to this date. The study originally examined the lives of 724 men and is now looking at the lives of their 2,000 children. Why women were initially excluded is not explained.
The purpose of the study is to answer this question: What keeps us happiest as we go through life?
The study reached this singular conclusion: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
Impact on health
An unexpected, collateral benefit of good relationships is the impact they have on our health. Those in positive relationships had less anxiety and better memory.
The study also notes the harmful impact of loneliness. Lonely people experience declines in health and brain functioning, are less happy and have a shorter life span.
Other studies (referenced here) confirm the findings in the Harvard study about the adverse impact of loneliness. It can cause depressive symptoms, cognitive decline, intense feelings of emptiness, abandonment, frequent visit of doctors and poorer quality of life. Loneliness also increases the risk of committing suicide.”
Prevalence of loneliness
The negative impact of loneliness is particularly troublesome given its prevalence, especially as we age. Loneliness among the elderly in various European countries has been estimated to range from 3% to 34%. Over half of those over 80 report, “frequent feelings of loneliness.”
The positive impact of good relationships is well-established. If your relationships fall short of this standard, what should you do?
These observations are personal and anecdotal:
I see many couples who don’t seem to even like each other. There’s no chemistry, only superficial communication and no sign of affection. The lack of touching is a particularly bad omen. Touching has been described as the first sense we acquire and the secret weapon in many a successful relationship.
If I’ve described your primary relationship, consider counseling. A trained therapist may be able to uncover long-buried issues and improve communication. If your relationship is no longer viable, a therapist can give you the strength (and courage) make a change and explore alternatives that may be more beneficial for both of you.
In selecting a therapist, there’s evidence cognitive behavioral therapy, “is the gold standard psychological treatment.”
Whatever you decide to do, your goal should be to have at least one happy, fulfilling relationship in your life.