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Posted on 02-22-2016

Reading through all of our monthly journals and daily updates on research, it can be pretty easy to get lost in the mountains of data learning about a treatment approach or new diet regimen to try to better help our patients.  Sometimes our readings pull us into a political arena with trying to protect access to chiropractic care.  Once in awhile, we will across something different that gives us a little perspective on life in general. 

An article by Donald Petersen Jr in the February issue of Dynamic Chiropractic was such an article.  Dr. Peterson noted that almost 40% of the chiropractic profession today has been practicing for 25 years or more, which of course meant a lot of these doctors are in their 50’s or more.  In this age group, he began to discuss retirement from our great profession and how one begins to see the end and in doing so, really starts to have a better grasp on the truly important things in life.  

His inspiration for this was a fascinating TED talk given by Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist who is the current director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development.  This study began in 1938 and has tracked the lives of 724 men who every two years; filled out questionnaires, underwent medical exams, and were interviewed, along with their parents, spouses, and children.  Dr. Petersen noted these men ranged from factory workers to a US President.

So after all this data accumulation what was the key finding after 75 years of study?

Dr. Peterson wrote that Dr. Waldinger noted there were 3 KEY LESSONS about the importance of relationships in our lives:

#1  Social Connections are really good for us, loneliness kills.  It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, friends, to community are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected.

#2  It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, but it is the quality of your close relationships that matter.  It turns out living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health.  High conflict marriages, for example, without much affection, turn out to be very bad for our health, perhaps worse than getting divorced.  And living in the midst of good, warm relationships is protective. 

#3 Good relationships don’t just protect our bodies, they protect our brains.  It turns out that being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80’s is protective, that the people who are in relationships where they really feel they can count on the other person in times of need, those people’s memories stay sharper longer.   

So while this study began in a totally different era and consisted of only North American men (you can’t change the parameters of your study after it is started or it’s an entirely new study), I have a feeling this finding would hold true with all people; focus on your family and friends and the quality of relationships you have with these people, your health and happiness is dependent upon it.  J

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