6 Keys to the Good Life: #1 Avoid Smoking and Drinking

By: Stuart Porter, NP


In 1938, researchers at Harvard University began a study that they hoped would reveal the secrets to a longer, happier life. Now, nearly 80 years later, Harvard professors believe they’ve cracked the code , and the results of The Study of Adult Development have been shared all over the world.   

Business Insider recently analyzed this Harvard study and identified six specific things that will make people live longer and happier lives:

  1. Avoid smoking and drinking
  2. Pursue an education 
  3. Build healthy relationships 
  4. Develop emotional intelligence 
  5. Develop coping skills 
  6. Serve others 

In our next few blog posts, we will break down these six aspects of a happy life and help readers understand the significance of each one.  

Key #1 Avoid Smoking and Drinking Alcohol 

According to Business Insider, the first aspect of a healthy and happy life is to avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. In his book, Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development, George E. Valliant, MD, who directed the study for more than 30 years, said that smoking was the number one predictor of unhealthy aging.  

Valliant also stated that alcohol was often the cause of unhappiness and relationship problems — not the result. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and another director of the study, also stresses the importance of taking care of your body. And he stressed the correlation that physical health has to your mental health.  

Increased Chances of Heart Disease, Cancer, and More

The health risks of smoking and drinking alcohol are no secret. Both smoking and drinking alcohol can increase the chances of heart disease, cancer, and other serious conditions. And according to the World Health Organization (WHO), many smoking- and alcohol-related deaths  occur each year, 8.5 million to be exact.

Not surprisingly, your chances of injury also increase when you are under the influence of alcohol. In fact, 60% of fatal burns , drownings, and homicides are alcohol-related — not to mention 50% of severe traumas and sexual assaults as well as 40% of all fatal automobile crashes, suicides, and fatal falls.  

Alcohol also weakens your immune system and causes many health complications, including cancer, heart disease, stomach bleeding, pancreatitis, liver disease, and other serious illnesses. But drinking alcohol isn’t the only risky behavior.  

According to the CDC, the risk of smoking-related death has only increased in the last 50 years. Smoking is responsible for more deaths each year than HIV, Illegal drugs, alcohol, automobile accidents, and guns. Additionally, nine out of ten lung cancer deaths and eight out of ten COPD deaths are related to smoking.  

It’s Not Too Late to Make a Change

Smoking and drinking alcohol are both highly addictive, but studies agree that quitting these habits will help improve your quality of life. The Study of Adult Development cited that the effects of smoking couldn’t be detected by the age of 70 or 80 if the participant quit smoking before age 45 — even if they had smoked as much as a pack a day for 20 years. The CDC also says that your health risks immediately decrease once you stop smoking.  

It’s surprising how resilient our bodies are when we take care of them and treat them properly. It’s also surprising how much our physical and mental health affect each other. If you’re unhappy and want to make a change, taking care of yourself physically can be a huge first step.  

Quit smoking and drinking, eat healthier foods, shower, brush your teeth, go to the doctor for regular check-ups, and do anything else that you need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle. You may find that your life completely turns around.  

Stay tuned for parts 2–6 of this series, and if you would like to read further about this study, check out Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk , Business Insider’s article, or George E. Valliant’s book.

If you’re ready to take control of your mental health, contact us at Serenity Mental Health Centers to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist .

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.