Can a Sense of Meaning and Purpose Extend Life and Overcome Illness?

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A new study published in Lancet of 9,050 people with an average age of 65 found that the people with the greatest well-being were 30% less likely to die during the eight and a half year follow-up period than those with less well being. Questionnaires were used to measure a type of wellbeing called “eudemonic wellbeing” which relates to a sense of control, feeling that what you do is worthwhile, and a sense of purpose. People were placed into one of four categories of highest to lowest wellbeing based upon their answers. Results were adjusted for age, sex, socio-economic status, physical health, depression, smoking, physical activity, and alcohol intake to rule out as many of the factors that might influence wellbeing and life expectancy.

Over the eight and a half year period of follow-up 9% of the people in the highest wellbeing group had dies whereas 29% died in the lowest category. After all influencing factors were considered the group with the highest wellbeing were 30% less likely to die over the study period living on average two years longer than those in the lowest wellbeing.

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