More Than Mortal

The science of the human quest for meaning, significance, and self-transcendence.

A Meaningful Life Leads to a Longer Life

Want to live longer? Find a purpose.

Many studies have linked meaning in life to health. People who perceive their lives as full of meaning and purpose are less vulnerable to mental illness and are better able to cope with stress and trauma. Having a strong sense of meaning in life also inspires a desire to live healthy: it makes people feel like they have something to live for. But does a meaningful life actually lead to a longer life?

Initial evidence suggests that it may. In a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Dr. Neal Krause, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, found that older adults who indicated having a strong sense of meaning in life in an initial assessment were more likely to still be alive at a follow-up assessment than older adults who lacked a strong sense of meaning. Moreover, Dr. Krause identified a feeling of purpose as a driving force. Older adults who felt like their lives had purpose were healthier and thus less likely to die.

Of course this research leaves a lot of questions unanswered but it also adds to the growing body of scientific evidence indicating that meaning in life is a crucial component of healthy living. So keep exercising, eating right, and drinking green tea. But also, endeavor to find a purpose in life.

 

Reference

Krause, N. (2009). Meaning in life and mortality. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences. 64B, 517 – 527.

 

 

Clay Routledge is an associate professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University.

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