Published on: May 14, 2014
by Helen Briggs for BBC News:
Having a sense of purpose may add years to your life, regardless of what the purpose is, research suggests.
Not only does it contribute to healthy aging, but it may also stave off early death, according to a study of 7,000 Americans.
The research, published in Psychological Science, applies across adult life, says a US-Canadian team.
It may be because purposeful people look after their health better and are physically fitter, they believe. The study tracked the physical and mental health of more than 7,000 US adults aged 20 to 75 years.
Their purpose in life was assessed by the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with three statements:
When followed up 14 years later, the researchers found purposeful people had outlived their counterparts, even when controlling for other factors such as negative mood.
Furthermore, the added years did not appear to depend on the person’s age, or whether or not they had retired from work.
In other words, having a purpose in life appears to be good for you across the adult years, the researchers say.
Dr Patrick Hill, of the department of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, said the notion of living a life of purpose – setting large goals that direct your day-to-day activities – seemed to be protective on a number of fronts.
“In this study it is mortality, but other studies have shown people report better health,” he told BBC News.
“There is clearly a benefit from feeling a sense of direction or feeling you have these goals directing your day-to-day life.”
Having a life worth living has long been linked with healthy ageing in several cultures, from Japan to the US.
But until now, it was thought that being purposeful might help protect older adults more than younger ones.
“To show that purpose predicts longer lives for younger and older adults alike is pretty interesting, and underscores the power of the construct,” said co-researcher Nicholas Turiano, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester in New York.
Dr Hill added: “Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose.”
Older people who report greater levels of social engagement have more robust gray matter in regions of the brain relevant in dementia, according to new research led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of...
In a new study, University of Nebraska–Lincoln sociologist Marc A. Garcia explored how educational attainment can benefit cognitive health in later life, and whether there are differences in its benefits among minorities. Garcia and his co-authors...
A genetic variation in some people may be associated with cognitive decline that can’t be explained by deposits of two key proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid β and tau, according to a study...
The material presented through the Think Tank feature on this website is in no way intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner. WBHI strongly advises all questioners and viewers using this feature with health problems to consult a qualified physician, especially before starting any treatment. The materials provided on this website cannot and should not be used as a basis for diagnosis or choice of treatment. The materials are not exhaustive and cannot always respect all the most recent research in all areas of medicine.