Purpose in Life – the sense that life has meaning and goal direction – is associated with reduced risks of adverse health outcomes including stroke, according to Rush University Medical Center’s Lei Yu, Patricia A. Boyle, Robert S. Wilson, Julie A. Schneider, and David A. Bennett collaborating with Steven R. Levine of SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
Older people with a greater sense of purpose are less likely to develop other undesirable health conditions including:
Yu’s team analyzed autopsy results on 453 older adults enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.
All participants underwent annual physical and psychological evaluations, including a standard assessment of Purpose in Life, and were followed until they died, at an average age of 90.
None of the participants had dementia when they entered the study, but 114 people had suffered a stroke.
Yu’s team extended earlier work by University of Michigan’s Eric S. Kim, Jennifer K. Sun, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson, demonstrating that Purpose in Life is associated with a reduced risk of clinical strokes in a group of participants aged 53 to 105 years.
This difference suggests that purpose in life is protective for silent infarcts, as well as clinical stroke.
At autopsy, Yu’s group observed macroscopic infarctions, areas of stroke damage visible to the naked eye, among 154 participants and microinfarcts, areas of damage visible with a microscope, among another 128.
Purpose in Life was judged annually using a modified 10-item measure derived from University of Wisconsin’s Carol D. Ryff and Corey Lee Keyes’ scales of Psychological Well-being.
Higher scores indicating a greater purpose, and every one-point increase, the likelihood of having one or more macroscopic infarctions decreased by about 50 percent.
In contrast, there was no link between purpose and microinfarcts.
These results persisted after adjusting for potentially confounding factors including vascular risk factors:
- Body mass index,
- History of smoking,
- Diabetes mellitus,
- Blood pressures.
Other controlled factors include:
- Childhood adverse experiences,
- Negative affect,
- Physical activity,
- Clinical stroke.Purpose in Life can predict later health status and outcomes, and is amenable to improvement by social participation with friends, community services, physical activity and health behavior modification.
These positive lifestyle changes contribute to improved physical and mental health and enhanced quality of life throughout the lifespan.
-*How do you define you Purpose in Life?
-*What factors contribute to Purpose in your Life?
-*How do you intentionally increase your sense of Purpose in Life?
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