Is there someone in your life whom you feel comfortable calling at four in the morning to share your troubles to?
According to Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, if you answered yes, you are likely to live longer than a person who answered no! Vaillant called this master strength and it's the capacity to be loved.
Valiant's insight comes from a four decade old research called The Grant Study. He writes that, "it is social aptitude, it's not intellectual brilliance or parental social class that leads to successful aging. Warm connections are necessary and -- if not found in a mother or father -- they can come from siblings, uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends or mentors."
What was fascinating in his work was the power of strong sibling relationships. Valiant found that 93 percent of men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or a sister when young. But, it doesn't have to be a relative. Bonds with other human beings, blood relations or not, are essential.
"The only thing that really matters in life," he told an interviewer, "are your relationships to other people."
His words reminded me of a recent fortune cookie message I came across: good friends equal long life. Relationships matter. They alter our brain. But good, solid bonds don't just happen, they take time, effort and commitment.
This weekend, take the time to build strong relationships. Remember, where there is love, there is health.