Sense of purpose reduces mortality

Purpose in life refers to the sense that life has meaning and direction and that one’s goals and potential are being achieved or are achievable. Greater purpose in life has been shown to be associated with several psychological outcomes, including a more positive outlook on life, happiness, satisfaction, and self-esteem. Most importantly research has also found that sense of purpose appears to reduce mortality.

One piece of research examined the association of purpose in life with mortality in >1200 community-dwelling older persons. During 5 years of follow-up, greater purpose in life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of death; more specifically, the hazard rate of a person with a high score on the purpose in life measure was about 57% of that for a person with a low score. The association of purpose in life with mortality did not vary by age, gender, education, or race, and the finding persisted after adjustment for several important covariates, including depressive symptoms, disability, neuroticism, the number of medical conditions, and income.

The finding that purpose in life is related to longevity in older people 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 that guides behaviour—contribute to health and wellbeing in later life.

To access the full report click here.