MONDAY, Nov. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Having a clear purpose in life can lower your risk of premature death.
That’s the conclusion of researchers who spent eight years tracking about 13,000 Americans over the age of 50.
The new study found that those who viewed their lives as particularly purposeful had a 15% increased risk of dying from any cause during the tracking period. That number jumped to nearly 37% among participants with a lower goal level.
“[Having] “Purpose in life is defined as the extent to which people perceive their lives as having a sense of direction and goals,” said lead author Koichiro Chiba, assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health.
He noted that a greater sense of purpose is associated with a lower risk of premature death among people of all races and ethnicities.
The researchers found that the association was also observed in both men and women, although the protective benefit was somewhat weaker among men.
For the study, participants between 2006 and 2008 were asked to indicate how honest they thought their life was, based on a standardized questionnaire. It was then categorized as having a ‘low’, ‘low-medium’, ‘high-medium’ or ‘high’ objective. The deaths were tracked over the next eight years.
As purpose levels rose, so did the risk of death over that period, whether due to stroke, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or lung disease, decrease.
The researchers note, however, that many factors affected the degree to which an individual reported having a strong goal.
Having more money, being in better physical and mental health, and a younger age at the start of the study were all associated with reporting a larger goal to start with.
As for why women may benefit more from a meaningful relationship and longevity than men, Shiba said more study is needed.
But he noted that in general, men tend to be less likely to seek health care than women.
Besides promoting stress reduction and protection against problem-causing infections, Chiba suggested that perhaps having a purpose might nudge people to take better care of themselves.