A Happy Life Depicted in Diagrams
June 27, 2011 4:38 PM   Subscribe

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is the longest prospective study of mental and physical well-being ever conducted. For 72 years, researchers at Harvard have been following 824 individuals through war, career, marriage and divorce, parenthood and grandparenthood, and old age. Designer Laura Javier took ten of those cases and visualized them in the Elements of Happiness. [via flowingdata]
posted by anifinder (13 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Is there a way to read this as text so I can, you know, read it?
posted by escabeche at 4:44 PM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I think the point of her summary is that it's a design project and not a research project per se. While I find that somewhat maddening since, yeah, I'd like to read it, it looks like printing the entire document was specifically disabled. The large-scale project is browseable here.

For those who want to cut to the chase, it's on page 90-91. Predictors of a happy life in this study were

- not being a smoker or stopping young [young defined as under 45]
- adaptive coping style [when life gives you lemond, make lemonade]
- absence of alcohol abuse [for yourself and immediate family]
- healthy marriage, stable weight and some exercise. obesity was an issue for physical, not psychological health, the other two are for both
- years of education [for Inner City men this was important, less so for the Harvard men]
posted by jessamyn at 4:54 PM on June 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

Is there a link to the actual study somewhere?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:56 PM on June 27, 2011

escabeche: "Is there a way to read this as text so I can, you know, read it?"

I tried every way I could to read this thing, which I was interested in doing. I can't imagine what the person who created this trash was thinking; one measure of a happy life for me will now include Don't Try To Read This Poorly Executed Flash Garbage.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:00 PM on June 27, 2011

Sorry guys, is everyone not also able to click the full-screen button and click on the page to zoom in so it's readable?
posted by anifinder at 5:04 PM on June 27, 2011

This eBook-like webpage on my iPad's web browser makes ME VERY ANGRY. I HATE MY LIFE.
posted by pashdown at 5:05 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Minus the annoying interface, 10 pages in this is very well written.
posted by localhuman at 5:30 PM on June 27, 2011

@dancestoblue--apparently you are having trouble with "adaptive coping skills". it is not easy to read until you get the hang of it--full page and/or click to zoomand use slider to adjust text size.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:48 PM on June 27, 2011

anifinder: Come on now. Don't project the lameness of inconsiderate websites upon yourself. You should hate them.

Also, we know the elements of harmony are Loyalty, Generosity, Laughter, Honesty and Kindness, so I expect these will be something similar. (I know what you're thinking, and I agree! Molybdenum was robbed!)
posted by JHarris at 5:56 PM on June 27, 2011

I'm not sure that the Harvard study is something I would want to hang my hat on; it's too tactical in its approach. Here is a TED lecture that is much more helpful as a general lifetime guide, and it's based on years of solid research.
posted by Vibrissae at 6:07 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Previous article on the project from the Atlantic which I enjoyed so much I kept an archived copy of it. Javier's project uses text adapted from George Vaillant's book Aging Well.

So I guess this post is actual about a design project and not the actual subject matter? Because the Atlantic article is a way better way to get a feel for the Harvard study.
posted by ianhattwick at 6:12 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sadly, the study was later determined to be invalid because two hundred of the people in the study died very happy but didn't mention it. Their keys to joy were: Jumping up and down in their shoes on someone else's bed and secondly, wearing a tea cosy for a hat.
posted by storybored at 6:32 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the relative size of the graphics on the cover, it would appear that medicine is more important than trips to Paris.

posted by IndigoJones at 5:41 AM on June 28, 2011

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