We're asking a million people how they live a full life, and as of the last week in October, about 40 percent of them have told us that "family" is the most critical part of living well.
6 Ways Families Help Your Health
Why is that?
Here, we take a look at what science tells us about the power of family.
All You Need Is Love
According to a study that's lasted more than 70 years at Harvard Medical School, "Happiness equals love — full stop." Psychiatrist George E. Vaillant, M.D., found that even when people have health and financial success, they aren't happy without a loving, supportive relationship.
Family Dinners Create Family Winners
Recent research has shown that family dinners play an enormous role in a child's success. Indeed, students who eat with their families are less likely to skip school, and Cornell University researchers found that family dinners were linked to lower levels of depression in children.
The More Generations the Merrier
Living with family can also contribute to the wellbeing of older people. According to a University of Southern California-conducted study in China, "Older parents living in three-generation households … had better psychological well-being than those living in single-generation households."
Happy Marriage, Healthier Heart?
A study at NYU Langone Medical Center of 3.5 million men and women found that — no matter what their age, gender or cardiovascular risk factors — married people were less likely to have any kind of cardiovascular disease than people who were single, divorced or widowed.
More Is Better
Dr. Bronwyn Harman of Australia's Edith Cowan University found that parents with four or more children were the happiest of those surveyed. Among the benefits of a large family, according to this five-year study on family life satisfaction, were mutual support and far less boredom than smaller families. And, because older children help out with younger ones, they develop a good sense of responsibility at a young age.
The Need for Nurture
Historically, the family has formed the basis of almost every human society. But as the definition of family changes across different eras and cultures, one thing remains constant — the need for nurture. Psychologist Harry Harlow's landmark experiments clearly demonstrated that physical closeness in infancy is crucial for mental and physical health.
Sometimes Single People Are Happier
A study at the University of Auckland in New Zealand has good news for single people. Even good relationships can be difficult to manage, and greater relationship conflict can lead to increases in depression and other health problems. The study also found that people who are single often wind up forming closer relationships with friends and siblings.