Having a greater purpose in life is associated with lower mortality rates among older adults, a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center has shown.
For the study, Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, and her colleagues from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, examined 1,238 community-dwelling elderly participants from two ongoing research studies, the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Minority Aging Research Study. None had dementia.
Data from baseline evaluations of purpose in life and up to five years of follow-up were used to test the hypothesis that greater purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk of mortality among community-dwelling older persons.
According to Boyle, purpose in life reflects the tendency to derive meaning from life's experiences and be focused and intentional.
After adjusting for age, sex, education and race, a higher purpose of life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of mortality. Thus, a person with high purpose in life was about half as likely to die over the follow-up period compared to a person with low purpose.
The association of purpose in life with mortality did not differ among men and women or whites and blacks, and the finding persisted even after controlling for depressive symptoms, disability, neuroticism, the number of medical conditions and income. During the study period, 151 participants died.
"The finding that purpose in life is related to longevity in older persons suggests that aspects of human flourishing-particularly the tendency to derive meaning from life's experiences and possess a sense of intentionality and goal-directedness-contribute to successful aging," said Boyle.
The study has been published in Psychosomatic Medicine.