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Link between Purpose in Life and Mortality Risk


According to a recent study, having a sense of purpose in life can be associated with a lower mortality rate.


The study, which was led by Koichiro Shiba, an associate professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, was published in Preventive Medicine.


The findings suggest that the association between having a purpose in life and lower mortality rate is applicable to both males and females as well as different ethnic groups, even though it may be somewhat stronger for females. 


The differences between racial/ethnic groups were not significant.


Shiba and colleagues at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, used data from the Health and Retirement Study, which is a study of U.S. adults age 50 and older.


Using the “purpose in life” of Ryff Psychological Well-being Scales, the research team assessed the self-reported sense of purpose of more than 13,000 people. 


The team also looked at mortality risk spanning eight years and starting from 2006-8. 


They also analyzed data on factors such as socioeconomic status which can influence health, finding a link between a higher sense of purpose and an increase in such factors.

Their research showed that people with the highest self-reported sense of purpose had the lowest mortality risk at 15.2 percent while the people with the lowest self-reported sense of purpose had a mortality risk of 36.5 ct.


Another study explored a similar topic, looking at the link between volunteering and risk of mortality.


The study, which was published in 2020 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicineexpanded on previous research and verified that there was a significantly reduced mortality risk for adults who were over the age of 50 and volunteered at least 100 hours per year. 


The results also showed that these people had higher sense of well-being, along with increased physical activity later on.


Even though this study did not confirm that volunteering improved chronic conditions such as diabetes, it is still relevant to how there is a link between helping others and improving one’s own health and well-being.


Adopting a positive outlook on life, and doing good for others can also make us feel better.

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