Can a Sense of Purpose Increase your Life Span?

logo1267406_mdA new study published in Psychological Science concluded if you feel you have a sense of purpose in life it helps you to live longer, no matter what age you are. The researchers said “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.”

Although previous studies have suggested that finding a purpose in life lowers the risk of death above and beyond other factors known to predict longevity, almost no previous studies evaluated whether or not the benefits of purpose vary over time, such as across different developmental periods or after important life transitions.  This study looked at that question.

Data from over 6,000 individuals focusing on their purpose in life were evaluated using questions such as “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.” They also looked at other psychosocial variables to gauge positive relations with others and their experience with positive and negative emotions.

Five hundred sixty nine of the 6,000 subjects died over the 14 year follow up period (about 9% of the sample). This group had reported lower purpose in life and lower positive relations than did the survivors. Great purpose in life consistently predicted lower mortality risk across the lifespan and showed the same benefits for young, middle aged, and older subjects across the follow up period. Interesting, purpose had similar benefits for adults regardless of retirement status, a known mortality risk  factor. The researchers reported that these longevity benefits of purpose in life were consistent even after other indicators of psychological well being such as positive relations and positive emotions were considered. Researchers said “These findings suggest that there’s something unique about finding  a purpose that seems to be leading to greater longevity.” Researchers current research is focusing on whetehr or not having a purpose might lead to a healthier lifestyle that influences longevity.

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