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A Purpose in Life Is Linked to a Longer Lifespan

SCIENCEALERT STAFF
11 NOVEMBER 2014

We all want to experience a meaningful life sustained by a fulfilling career, strong relationships, and hobbies that make us happy, because by setting ourselves challenges and goals, we fill our lives with a sense of purpose. And now new research has suggested that not only is a meaningful life more satisfying, it’s also longer-lived.

 

A team of researchers from Princeton University and Stony Brook University in the US and University College London in the UK decided to investigate how a sense of purpose can affect a person's longevity. In doing so, they asked 9,050 English participants with an average age of 65 to fill out a questionnaire, evaluating their levels of ‘eudemonic wellbeing,’ which relates to the meaning and purpose of life. Based on their responses, the participants were divided into four categories ranked from the highest wellbeing to lowest wellbeing. 

After taking into account factors that could influence wellbeing, such as physical activity, depression, alcohol intake, and smoking, the team followed up with the participants eight and a half years later. The results, published in The Lancet, revealed that while 29 percent of the participants from the lowest wellbeing group had died since taking the questionnaire, the participants in the highest wellbeing group fared much better - just 9 percent of them had died since taking the questionnaire.

The results showed that participants in the highest wellbeing group were 30 percent less likely to die over the study period, living two years longer, on average, than those in the lowest wellbeing category.

“The findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing wellbeing could help to improve physical health,” said Andrew Steptoe, medical scientist and lead researcher, in a press release.

The researchers note that while the results establish a link between high levels of wellbeing and life expectancy, further research needs to be done to rule out biological factors that could play a role in longevity. Either way, it sounds like a pretty good reason to chase your dreams and find your true calling. 

Source: University College London