An ode to the prisoners of happiness

Hard work is something noble, being elegant is beautiful but social welfare is a human right

Yasser Hareb
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An American doctor who has lived in Dubai for a long time told me how he worked long hours at the clinic without an apparent logical explanation, just as he did back in the States. He discovered that the long years he spent in the clinic, was in order to buy an expensive watch, a luxurious car and to go to fancy restaurants.

At Harvard University, a large group of scientists conducted one of the longest studies in history on the subject of happiness. In the thirties of the last century, they choose two groups of boys (724 people), the first belonging to the upper class in the city of Boston and the second from the poorest neighborhoods who did not have hot water in their homes.


They spent 75 years studying all the aspects of their lives, they examined their blood and their brains, and read the results of their medical tests to their relatives according to the signed agreement. They studied their psychology, their problems, their dreams and aspirations, and they put cameras in their homes to watch their behavior with their families, all throughout seven decades.

The study witnessed four generations of scientists. Among the group, there was someone who ended up working in a factory, a doctor, a lawyer, John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, an alcoholic, a drug addict, and someone with mental illness.

They discovered that true happiness lies in one thing “good human relations”, that does not mean the number of friends or family members you have, since you could feel lonely even when you’re surrounded with people. You could be married and still feel lonely. It means the quality of your relationships with others.

As they read the results of the study, they discovered that those who have lived in good health until the age of 80 had stable social relationships, and it had nothing to do with their cholesterol level or their blood pressure.

In their death bed, no one wishes if he had bought more clothes, or worked late hours at the office, most of them wish to spend more time with their loved ones

Yasser Hareb

The happiest family

In an interview with the happiest family in the group, they discovered that when the 80-year-old couple was in physical pain, their feelings and their mood remained the same. The saddest family said that their torment was compounded; because the psychological agony and frustrations of the strained relations inflated the physical illness.

The Fourth supervisor of the study asserted that happy relationships lead to a better memory, but unhappy relationships speed up dementia and other brain diseases. Although happy families are not happy all the time, since they have disagreements and problems, yet they can rely on their partners.

The research team asked a group of young boys and girls, a few years ago, what they wanted to be when they grow up and 80 percent said that they want to be rich. They asked a second group and 50 percent said they want to be celebrities. When comparing the annual income of a person who earns $75,000 and another who makes $75 million, they discovered that their happiness and health were at a very tight level.

I say to the prisoners of happiness, who are working day and night, and suffering from appearances mania that hard work is something noble, being elegant is beautiful, social welfare is a human right, but remember this sentence: In their death bed, no one wishes if he had bought more clothes, or worked late hours at the office, most of them wish to spend more time with their loved ones.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Yasser Hareb is an Emirati novelist and writer on political and social affairs. You can follow him at

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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