‘The only thing that matters for good health in life are our relationships’ – psychiatrist’s 75-year study finds

23 June 2014

The author of a groundbreaking study into the lives of almost 300 men is set to make a rare UK appearance at a biennial lecture hosted by relationship charity OnePlusOne tonight (June 23).

George E. Vaillant, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School followed the lives of 268 men in the longest study of human development, which started in 1938.

The Edith Dominian Memorial Lecture 2014: 75 Years In The Making – The Importance Of Relationships On Health, Resilience And Successful Ageing will be held at the British Library in London tonight (June 23).

Prof Vaillant will discuss key findings from the study published in his book, Triumphs of Experience: The men of the Harvard Grant Study, which reveals relationships are the most important aspect of our lives when it comes to health and wellbeing.

The event’s chairman will be British journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, Michael Buerk who is also one of the charity’s patrons.

The 75-year study reveals that our lives often become more fulfilling in later life than they were in earlier years.

The study reports on all aspects of the men’s lives, including their relationships, political and religious views, coping strategies, and lifestyle choices such as alcohol consumption. The most common factor in the Grant Study divorces was alcoholism; 34 of the divorces (57%) had occurred when at least one spouse was abusing alcohol.

However, the study points out that divorce is not necessarily always a bad outcome, for many participants it gave them a second and sometimes third or fourth chance of finding happiness partner.

Marriages can bring greater happiness after the age of 70 and physical ageing after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to 50. While happy childhood memories are a source of strength in later life, it is also possible to recover from troubled times during younger years, the study shows.

Penny Mansfield, director of OnePlusOne said: “I’ve studied relationships for over 30 years and never seen so much interest especially amongst young people in wanting to discover the secret of how to find the right partner and make a relationship last. This study offers insight into why relationships matter and what makes them last.

“Being able to scrutinise these men’s relationships over more than seven decades gives us a fascinating insight into enduring love. For some, their long marriages were the outcome of a deepening intimacy, for others it was down to a life- long commitment to staying together.”

Professor George E. Vaillant said: “What the Grant study teaches us about marriage, intimacy and mental health is not that divorce is bad, but that loving people for a long time is good. The most important finding, proves that the only thing that really matters in life are your relations to other people.

“Mutual interdependence comes later to some people than others, but most of the Grant men got there, which proves that the best marriages got better with time.”



For more information or if you would like to attend the event, call Nadia Gilani at OnePlusOne on 020 7553 9538 or email nadia.gilani@oneplusone.org.uk


Notes to editors

About OnePlusOne

  • OnePlusOne is an evidence-based charity that has been researching what makes couple relationships work out or come to an end for more than 40 years.
  • The charity creates online services based on the latest evidence to help people resolve relationship difficulties themselves.
  • It also provides online training for frontline family workers to equip them with the skills to offer timely relationship support in a face-to-face setting.

For more information, go to www.oneplusone.org.uk