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16 May 2014

Having a purpose may lead to a longer life

Having greater purpose in life is associated with lower risk of death in younger, middle-aged and older adults.

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You may live longer if you feel you have a purpose in life, a new study suggests.

Researchers analysed data from more than 6 000 people who were asked if they felt they had a purpose in life and about their relations with others. The participants were then followed for 14 years. During that time, about 9% of them died.

Those who died during the follow-up had reported feeling less purpose in life and having fewer positive relationships than the survivors, according to the study published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

A sense of direction

Having greater purpose in life was also associated with lower risk of death in younger, middle-aged and older adults. This consistency across all age groups came as a surprise to the investigators.

Read: Omega-3 extends life expectancy

"There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones," lead researcher Patrick Hill, of Carleton University in Canada, said in a journal news release.

"For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organising their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face [death] risks than younger adults," he explained.

The results could be used to help promote healthy ageing, according to the researchers.

"Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose," Hill said. "So the earlier someone finds direction in life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur."


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