A recent study has shown that older adults in the US are less likely to die from any cause if they have a strong purpose in life. Additionally, specific causes of death, like heart and circulatory conditions, were less likely to occur in those with a life purpose.
This study included 6,985 adults ages 50 and over who participated in the US Health and Retirement Study. Life purpose was assessed for these individuals using a 7-question survey at the beginning of the study. Then, the individuals were followed for four years and causes of mortality were assessed.
The researchers saw that life purpose was significantly associated with all-cause mortality among the study participants. Those in the group with the lowest sense of life purpose were almost 2.5 times more likely to die of any cause than those in the group with the highest sense of purpose. They were also more likely to have conditions associated with their hearts, circulatory systems, blood, and digestive tracts.
The study’s senior author noted that life purpose will be different for everyone. The questionnaire included statements like, “I have a sense of direction and purpose in life,” and participants rated how strongly they agreed with the statements. Life purpose could come from anywhere, such as family, work, or volunteering. While the reasons for the connection between life purpose and mortality are not well understood, it’s possible that having a life purpose causes people to make healthier life choices, like exercising, sleeping enough, and eating a healthy diet. Those with a life purpose may also be less stressed, which can lead to better overall health.