Whenever someone turns 100, they're asked the same question: What's your secret? Some centenarians have said they follow a strict no smoking or drinking lifestyle, while others eat cookies and raw eggs and drink beer every day. One woman who lived to 109 even attributed her longevity to the lack of men in her life (girl, same). But a study from Harvard researchers may have found the actual—or at least, the most important—key to living a longer, healthier life.
Love. But not just romantic, heart-eyes-emoji love. It's about all of your relationships, and that includes platonic friendships.
"It's not just the number of friends you have, and it's not whether or not you're in a committed relationship," explained Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. "It's the quality of your close relationships that matters."
The massive study has followed a group of over 600 men in different life circumstances for over 75 years, measuring their physical and emotional health by tracking blood samples, brain scans and self-reported surveys, and found that above all else, strong relationships are the key to lifelong happiness and health.
According to the study, having someone to rely on helps your nervous system relax, which has a number of helpful effects—first, it helps your brain stay healthy, and second, it reduces both physical and emotional pain.
And it's not the quantity of your relationships that matters, but the quality. In this case, by quality the researchers mean that what matters is that your relationships have vulnerability and depth, as well as trust—how much do you really feel like you can share with each other?—and whether or not you can truly be yourself around them.
The other, related key? Not pushing those friendships away in times of trouble, according to the study. Other things may come and go, but your relationships are important in many ways, and so is holding onto them.
So, along with doing what you personally need to do to take care of your own health and wellbeing, your relationships—romantic, platonic, familial and otherwise—are the thing you need to take care of and maintain the most.
The best part: you'll live longer to enjoy those relationships too—it's science.