The Science Of Happiness

Photo by Helena Lopes licensed under CC0
The Science Of Happiness
By Allen Romero

The science is clear. It is our close relationships that keep us happier and healthier as we age.

As children our friendships come easy in the neighborhood, on the field or in the classroom. As adults, our lives are more complex as our families expand and our careers take us in new directions.

While technology keeps us ever connected, the hard truth is that our online posts, likes and comments cannot replace the shared laughter or embrace of a friend that we experience in person.

The Harvard Happiness Study

Research from Harvard1 and UNC2 concur that people who have both strong friendships and who regularly spend time with their friends, report a greater sense of happiness, are healthier and live longer.

Dr. Robert Waldinger, a Harvard professor and psychiatrist, recently detailed Harvard's learnings in a wonderful TED talk on happiness3. At almost 80 years and running, this is the longest study on adult life ever done. The study reveals that close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Simply put, embracing community helps us live longer and be happier.

"The clearest message we learn from this 75 year study. Good relationships keep us happier and healthier period." - Dr. Robert Waldinger, Harvard University Professor and Psychiatrist
Invest In Friendship
Photo by Tatiana Vavrikova licensed under CC0

Friendship In America

While friendship and community help keep us happy, the reality of modern life is that finding time for friends, and making new ones as an adult, is challenging. The other reality is that as a population, we are living more alone.

U.S. Census data4 shows that 28% of the U.S. now lives alone, up from 10% in 1960. Additionally, a 2015 Gallup Poll5 reports that the number of individuals that live alone in major U.S cities is trending much higher, at 48% in New York City, 45% in Atlanta and 40% in San Francisco.

With strong bonds and strong communities serving as the foundational basis for our happiness, the state of social isolation in the U.S. is cause for concern. A 2006 paper6, by Duke University and The University of Arizona, highlight significant changes in the social fabric of America between 1985 and 2004.

During this time, the number of people that report there is no one with whom they can discuss important matters nearly tripled. Overall, the average number of confidants U.S. Americans hold, that is folks we can talk to about topics like death, cancer and the like, significantly decreased from 2.98 to 2.04.

Invest In Friendship
Photo by Matthew Henry licensed under CC0

Happiness Is Time With Friends

While adult life often presents logistical challenges to meet up, the great news is that we can shape our future by ensuring we invest in our social bonds. This requires taking initiative and time to nurture our relationships by reaching out and inviting our friends for a walk, a hike or anything really.

It may be obvious that you can text, call or e-mail your friends when you want to hang out, however, common knowledge is not always common practice. With increasing responsibilities, developing our friendships as an adult takes work. We have to remember to invite that new friend we met at the gym or at the office out to do something. We often simply reach out to our closest friends and forget to cultivate the new ones.

Science Meets Technology

Juggling a demanding work schedule at Google from 2003-2009, coupled with a three hour a day commute, I've witnessed firsthand the reality of these challenges in my own life. A few years back I set out to build an app that would solve many of the issues that I kept running into. As I got older, I found that I'd often only invite out the same few friends when I was free for whatever, often forgetting to invite all the new awesome people that I was meeting at work, a conference or at a party.

"If we want to build new great relationships in our adult life, we have to be proactive and take the necessary initiative to invite new friends out for various activities to help build the relationship." - Allen Romero, Founder/CEO of Hang Local
Screenshots from the Hang Local app on iOS

Hang Local takes the challenge out of locating your friends when you're free to hang out. Start spending less time on Facebook and more time hanging out in real life with your friends!

Want to use technology to take your friendships to the next level? Sign up to download our free app and join the community of people who, in the midst of our busy lives, think it's important to spend time hanging out with our friends!

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References

1. Liz Mineo, "Good genes are nice, but joy is better", Harvard Gazette, Apr 11, 2017.

2. Yang Claire Yang, Courtney Boen, Karen Gerken, Ting Li, Kristen Schorpp, Kathleen Mullan Harris, "Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Jan 19 2016.

3. Robert Waldinger, "The Good Life", TEDxBeaconStreet, 2015.

4. "2016 U.S. Census Report", Nov 17, 2016.

5. "Fewer Young People Say I Do -- to Any Relationship", Gallup Poll, Jun 8, 2015.

6. "Americans Have Fewer Friends Outside the Family, Duke study Shows", Duke Today, Jun 23, 2006.