Having A Sense of Purpose Helps You Live Longer

Having A Sense of Purpose Helps You Live Longer

Alexandra Sifferlin @acsifferlin –Nov. 7, 2014

People who think their life has meaning and purpose die later than people with a lower sense of personal wellbeing, according to a new study.

About 9,000 people over age 65 were followed for eight and half years as part of a study published in the Lancet. Researchers measured their wellbeing by giving them a questionnaire that gauged how much control they felt they had over their own life, and how much they thought what they did was worthwhile. The participants were then split into four groups, ranging from the highest to lowest levels of wellbeing.

Happier people tended to outlive their less fulfilled peers. Over the eight years, just 9% of people in the highest wellbeing category died, compared to 29% in the lowest category. Previous research has linked happiness to a longer life, and this new finding adds to the theory.

“There is quite good evidence from studies of people in nursing homes showing that those who have something to do and look forward to tend to be in a much better state,” says study author Andrew Steptoe, director of the University College London Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care. “I think one of the fundamental ideas is that of autonomy and sense control of their life. People can feel life is just rushing by, or once they quit working their purpose can narrow to some extent.”

Steptoe says it’s possible to engineer environments that encourage greater wellbeing, like bringing pets into nursing homes or having residents partake in gardening. Increasing meaning during the day might just increase lifespan, too

The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 6 November 2014

doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61489-0

Αρχή φόρμας

Subjective wellbeing, health, and ageing

Prof Andrew Steptoe DPhil a , Prof Angus Deaton PhD b, Prof Arthur A Stone PhD c d

Summary

Subjective wellbeing and health are closely linked to age. Three aspects of subjective wellbeing can be distinguished—evaluative wellbeing (or life satisfaction), hedonic wellbeing (feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, stress, and pain), and eudemonic wellbeing (sense of purpose and meaning in life). We review recent advances in the specialty of psychological wellbeing, and present new analyses about the pattern of wellbeing across ages and the association between wellbeing and survival at older ages. The Gallup World Poll, a continuing survey in more than 160 countries, shows a U-shaped relation between evaluative wellbeing and age in high-income, English speaking countries, with the lowest levels of wellbeing in ages 45—54 years. But this pattern is not universal. For example, respondents from the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe show a large progressive reduction in wellbeing with age, respondents from Latin America also shows decreased wellbeing with age, whereas wellbeing in sub-Saharan Africa shows little change with age. The relation between physical health and subjective wellbeing is bidirectional. Older people with illnesses such as coronary heart disease, arthritis, and chronic lung disease show both increased levels of depressed mood and impaired hedonic and eudemonic wellbeing. Wellbeing might also have a protective role in health maintenance. In an analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, we identify that eudemonic wellbeing is associated with increased survival; 29·3% of people in the lowest wellbeing quartile died during the average follow-up period of 8·5 years compared with 9·3% of those in the highest quartile. Associations were independent of age, sex, demographic factors, and baseline mental and physical health. We conclude that the wellbeing of elderly people is an important objective for both economic and health policy. Present psychological and economic theories do not adequately account for the variations in patterns of wellbeing with age across different parts of the world. The apparent association between wellbeing and survival is consistent with a protective role of high wellbeing, but alternative explanations cannot be ruled out at this stage.

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