Want a happier, longer life? Get a sense of purpose

Scientists have found that having a sense of purpose could help you live longer.

Researchers from UCL, Princeton University, and Stony Brook University studied 9,050 English people with an average age of 65, surveying them about their physical and mental health and wellbeing. They adjusted the results for age, sex, socio-economic status, physical health, depression, smoking, physical activity and alcohol intake, and discovered that those participants with the highest levels of eudemonic wellbeing were 30% less likely to die during the eight-year follow-up period.

Eudemonic wellbeing means a feeling of control over your actions and a sense that what you’re doing in life is meaningful.

The scientists organised the participants into groups based on their wellbeing scores, from highest to lowest. After eight years, 29% of people in the lowest group had died, compared with 9% in the highest. The research team had previously found that happiness was linked with a lower chance of dying young. Although they say that they can’t be certain that a sense of purpose causes people to live longer, there definitely seems to be a link.

Says Professor Andrew Steptoe, who led the study, ‘We cannot be sure that higher wellbeing necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal. But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing wellbeing could help to improve physical health.’ They’ll now go on to research what specific physical effects a sense of eudemonic wellbeing might have on the body.

Image via Marcy Kellar’s Flickr.

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