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Lessons from the longest study of happiness ever

Robert Waldinger joins Washington Post Live on Thursday, Jan. 26. (Video: The Washington Post)

Robert Waldinger is the director of the longest study of happiness ever conducted and co-author of the new book “The Good Life.” The Harvard psychiatrist joins The Post’s Well+Being editor Tara Parker-Pope to discuss the lessons from his decades-long research for living a fulfilled life.

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“In 1938 the city of Boston was 97.4 percent White. So, the waves of migration of people of color came to Boston after WWII. What that meant is that if you wanted to start a study in Boston in 1938, you had basically Caucasian people. What that meant is that we also needed to collaborate with and rely on other studies of people of color, of people all around the world from different cultures. So, when we present findings … we are careful only to present the findings that have been corroborated in studies of other diverse groups, not just our own.” - Robert Waldinger (Video: Washington Post Live)
“Social class did not determine your happiness level. The two groups were about equally happy … That said, poverty is grinding. Poverty makes you unhappy. But our group, because of the era they were born in and because they were all White, they had more opportunity. So, they could eventually grow up and make a decent living … that meant that they could live the American Dream. And we know now that a lot of people cannot do that. But, by and large, money was not the determinant of what made you happy, at all.” - Robert Waldinger (Video: Washington Post Live)
“If you think about it in the 1930s, 40s, 50s very few people could risk being open about being LGBTQ … We knew that we had gay people in our study, but they weren’t able to be open about it. And that’s a great source of pain. I’m our second generation we have gay people who are able to tell us about it … What we wish we could have done is to really delve deep into the gay experience … We weren’t able to do that, but fortunately, now there are studies that do just that.” - Robert Waldinger (Video: Washington Post Live)
“How we use social media makes a big difference in whether it makes us happier or less happy. If we use social media actively to connect with other people, that tends to make us happier ... If we consume social media passively ... that lowers our mood." - Robert Waldinger (Video: Washington Post Live)

Robert Waldinger

Co-Author, “The Good Life”

Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School