13 Sep Is happiness catching?
In the reunion photos, there is only one person who visibly degrades in health as the years pass: a boyish-faced man sporting mutton-chop sideburns. When he was younger, he looked as healthy as the rest of the crowd. But each time he showed up for the reunion, he had grown steadily heavier, until the 2003 photograph, when he looked straightforwardly obese, the only one of his size in the entire picture. Almost uniquely among the crowd, he did not remain friends with his old classmates. His only point of contact was the reunions, which he kept attending until he didn_ã_t show up last year. It turned out he_ã_d died.
The man_ã_s story struck me as particularly relevant because Eileen and Joseph are part of a scientific study that might actually help explain his fate. The Bellolis are participants in the Framingham Heart Study, the nation_ã_s most ambitious project to understand the roots of heart disease. Founded in 1948 by the National Heart Institute, the study has followed more than 15,000 Framingham residents and their descendants, bringing them in to a doctor_ã_s office every four years, on average, for a comprehensive physical. Each time the Bellolis are examined, every aspect of their health is quantified and collected: heart rate, weight, blood levels and more. Over the decades, the Framingham study has yielded a gold mine of information about risk factors for heart disease; it was instrumental, for instance, in identifying the positive role of happiness and _ã–good_ã cholesterol.
To read more about happiness and other factors identified over the years in this wonderful positive psychology study – click here