I want to refer you to a terrific NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/12/opinion/12brooks.html)
that is based on an Atlantic magazine essay (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200906/happiness)

It has to do with following 250+ Harvard College men over 70 years to find out who led happy lives and what might have been the sources of that happiness.

Here are two excerpts from the Atlantic Essay that are big determinants:

1. That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
2. What allows people to work, and love, as they grow old? By the time the Grant Study men had entered retirement, Vaillant, who had then been following them for a quarter century, had identified seven major factors that predict healthy aging, both physically and psychologically.

Employing mature adaptations (see below) was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. Of the 106 Harvard men who had five or six of these factors in their favor at age 50, half ended up at 80 as what Vaillant called “happy-well” and only 7.5 percent as “sad-sick.” Meanwhile, of the men who had three or fewer of the health factors at age 50, none ended up “happy-well” at 80. Even if they had been in adequate physical shape at 50, the men who had three or fewer protective factors were three times as likely to be dead at 80 as those with four or more factors. Read the rest of this entry »

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