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life with purpose lasts longer, researchers find
Older adults who are goal directed and have an overall sense that life is meaningful are less likely to die sooner, a U.S. study says
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From Wednesday's Globe and Mail, Thursday, Jun. 18, 2009 03:48AM EDT
The secret to a long life may be to have a higher purpose, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that older adults who have a purpose in life – those who are goal directed and have an overall sense that life is meaningful – have a reduced risk of dying earlier.
Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's disease centre, and her team surveyed 1,238 community-dwelling participants in the Chicago area, ranging in age from 55 to the upper 90s. During an up to six-year follow-up period, they discovered that a person with a high sense of meaning and motivation was about half as likely to die compared with a person without a purpose.
“We are optimistic that there are positive lifestyle and psychological things that people can do to increase their likelihood of living longer,” Dr. Boyle says.
“You can help people to find ways to put meaning in their lives, to set goals that have personal relevance to them.”
Participants who agreed with the following statements from the study's survey were likely to die sooner: “I sometimes feel as if I've done all there is to do in life”; “I used to set goals for myself, but now that seems like a waste of time”; and “My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me.”
The results of the study, published in the June 15 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, were the same for both men and women. During the six-year period, 151 participants died.
Commemts from the reader:
6/20/2009 12:45:11 AM
At 9:26:02 PM James wrote: "What is relevant, is that individuals should have a purpose in life, whether it is sitting in the sun, or getting more of an education. In other words, living life prolongs life." I regret that you see this as the main truth here, James. You really seem to be buying into this study, though you claim that the study has no relevance. Like you, the researchers are also insisting that people "should" have a purpose in life, although possibly also think that sitting in the sun, reflecting, or engaging in the small "trivial" things in life doesn't count. Maybe the study itself explains this better, but it appears that if one beliieves, for instance, that “My daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me,” then one is going to die sooner. What if one believes that their daily activities really are more important than they think, would that help? I am thinking of housewives back in the 50s, who were so often led to beliieve that the work they did, caring for their man, their children and their home, was unimportant, and sometimes that they themselves were worthless human beings. I am concerned that the people who are doing this research, and the people who use it to try and understand human beings better, may be led to judge others on the basis of some new DSM which grants some activities higher status than others, as far as having a 'higher purpose.' Probably, activities which are socially sanctioned, such as controlled community volunteer work, formal community educational programs, and community clubs will be the main sources of worthwhile activities. anything else, done on a random basis, or outside the mainstream, will be looked down on even more than it is now. Formalizing and standardizing 'acceptable' activities should be avoided, or there will fewer people than ever who will be able to think outside the box and have their thoughts, activities, and goals recognized as worthwhile.