There are lots of things that can contribute to happiness and fulfillment, and they vary with each individual. A 75-year-long study, however, has found one common element that's believed to play a pivotal role in most people's genuine, longstanding happiness.

Good ol' fashioned friendship.

This study, which is considered the longest ongoing study on human happiness, started at Harvard University in 1938 with 724 men, 60 of whom are still alive today (women were added later because misogyny). After decades of observation, one of the study's leaders, Robert Waldinger, came to this conclusion:

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When I was 7, my best friend’s name was George.

He lived around the corner from me. George was tall and lanky. His elbows always akimbo, his cowlick stellar in its sheer verticality. He had an aquarium. He had a glow-in-the-dark board game. He had the 45 rpm of "Hang On, Sloopy," and he was a Harry Nilsson fan, just like me. I can still recall his house, and all of the luminous joy it held, perfectly in my mind's eye — all part of the frozen 7-year-old's mosaic that exploded into pieces when my parents' marriage failed.

After my parents split, George and I lived just an hour apart. But our parents weren't willing to ensure that George and I stayed in regular contact. Once or twice a year, we were allowed a sleepover, and George always came to spend the night on my birthday. His visit was the one gift I asked for.

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The monkey had a busy morning, but it was finally time to go home.  

He was a small creature, about the size of a rabbit, with a long prehensile tail and dusky red fur. Earlier that day, scientists had scooped him up from his cage and taken him away to get a shot. But now that was done, and just like for many of us, heading home meant that he'd finally get to rest and hang out with his mate.

This time, though, his scientist colleagues weren’t done with him. In fact, our monkey was being set up for an incredible betrayal.

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We all know that phrases like “How's it going?” and “How are you?” are mostly pleasantries.

It's just how we say "Hello." You're not expected to answer any more than the person asking is expected to care.

But every once in a while, someone will surprise you. You'll toss out a casual and totally insincere “How are you?” and the floodgates will open out of nowhere. “I've had the WORST DAY,” they'll say.

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