Happy Relationships are the Key to a Fulfilling Life, According to 75-Year-Long Harvard Study

iStock.com/molchanovdmitry
iStock.com/molchanovdmitry

The key to a fulfilling life has nothing to do with getting ahead at work, making money, or traveling the world. As Fast Company reports, according to a 75-year Harvard study, living your best life and creating meaning is all about one thing: relationships.

The Grant and Glueck study of adult development has been running at Harvard since 1938, and is now on its second generation of participants—the children of the original study’s subjects. The study is actually made up of two different longitudinal research projects. One, originally called the Grant study, recruited 268 participants from Harvard’s classes of 1939 to 1944. The other, the Glueck study, recruited 456 men growing up in working-class neighborhoods in Boston. Over decades, the Harvard research team collected data about their lives, including their physical and mental health, marital status and quality, career happiness, and more.

They found that the most important factor in how happy and healthy these men were over time was their relationships. In other words: Finding fulfillment in life is all about the people you love.

The Grant and Gluck research doesn’t only encompass romantic partnerships and marriage, though. Quality, close relationships are important whether they are in the context of romantic partnerships or intimacy between friends or family members. The kind of relationship you have is less important than how close you feel with them.

The study has one big caveat: It only included men, and there are notable gender differences in how people experience relationships. Some research has suggested that men may benefit more from marriage than women. As a group, men also tend to have a harder time maintaining friendships; surveys have found that men, particularly as they get older, are more likely than women to say they have no one to discuss important subjects with. So it's possible that having close relationships throughout their lives might affect men differently than women.

However, the findings line up with empirical research on the effects of loneliness, which studies have found can drastically impact your health. People who are socially isolated have a greater likelihood of heart attacks and strokes, higher blood pressure, reduced immunity, and chronic inflammation. That’s not to mention the obvious mental health effects. Loneliness has become an important enough topic in the public health world that Great Britain has appointed a government minister dedicated entirely to the topic.

Unfortunately for the youngest generations among us, recent surveys have found that young Americans are lonelier than older generations. That will likely have a big impact on how healthy and fulfilled people feel throughout their lives.

[h/t Fast Company]

Chronic Pain Happens Differently in Men and Women

iStock.com/PeopleImages
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Women often feel colder than men due to physical differences. Now, a new study shows that the two sexes have different biological processes underlying a specific kind of pain, too. As WIRED reports, research published in the journal Brain revealed that different cells and proteins were activated in men and women with neuropathic pain—a condition that is often chronic, with symptoms including a burning or shooting sensation. While scientists say further research is needed, these findings could potentially change the way we treat conditions involving chronic pain.

A team of Texas-based neurologists and neuroscientists looked for RNA expressions in the sensory neurons of spinal tumors that had been removed from eight women and 18 men. Some of the patients had pain as a result of nerve compression, while others had not experienced any chronic pain. While studying the neurons of women with pain, researchers noticed that protein-like molecules called neuropeptides, which modulate neurons, were highly activated. For the men, immune system cells called macrophages were most active.

"This represents the first direct human evidence that pain seems to be as sex-dependent in its underlying biology in humans as we have been suggesting for a while now, based on experiments in mice," Jeffrey Mogil, a professor of pain studies at Montreal's McGill University, who was not involved in the Brain study, tells WIRED.

So what exactly do these new findings mean for sufferers of chronic pain? Considering that clinical trials and drug manufacturers have traditionally failed to distinguish between the sexes when it comes to developing pain medication, the study could potentially form a foundation for sex-specific pain therapies that could prove more effective. This might be especially promising for women, who are more likely to have some condition that cause persistent pain, such as migraines or fibromyalgia.

"I think that 10 years from now, when I look back at how papers I've published have had an impact, this one will stick out," Dr. Ted Price, a neuroscience professor and one of the paper's authors, said in a statement. "I hope by then that we are designing clinical trials better considering sex as a biological variable, and that we understand how chronic pain is driven differently in men and women."

[h/t WIRED]

McDonald’s Is Testing Out Vegan McNuggets in Norway

McDonald's has never been an especially welcoming place for vegans (until 1990, even the fries contained meat). But now, the chain's Norwegian locations are working to change that. As Today reports, McDonald's restaurants in Norway have launched a vegan nugget alternative to the classic chicken McNugget.

The new vegan McNuggets are prepared to look like the menu item customers are familiar with. They're coated with a layer of breadcrumbs and fried until they're golden-brown and crispy. Instead of chicken meat, the nugget is filled with plant-based ingredients, including mashed potatoes, chickpeas, onions, corn, and carrots.

The vegan McNuggets are only available to customers in Norway for now, but if they're popular, they may spread to McDonald's in other parts of the world. Norway's McDonald's locations also include a Vegetarian McFeast burger on its menu.

McDonald's is famous for tailoring its menus to international markets, and vegetarian options are much easier to find in restaurants some parts of the world compared to others. In India, where one fifth of the population is vegetarian, customers can order the McAloo Tikki Burger, made from potatoes and peas, or a McVeggie sandwich.

[h/t Today]

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