Science shows that having a focus in life can be a determinant in staying alive, more so than age or emotional well-being.
It is the philosophical question for the ages: “Why are we here?” and it turns out, if you can answer that question, you get to live longer.
Researchers from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada have determined that having a purpose in life can prolong your life and help you avoid fatal illness. Their findings were published in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
For years, doctors and psychologists have said a positive mental attitude has wide-ranging health benefits, but the Canadian study suggests that a purpose or direction in life was more effective in determining a long life than factors like age, gender or emotional well-being.
The researchers looked at data collected for the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study funded by the National Institute on Aging taken in 1995-96, and looked at those study participants 14 years later. Over 9 percent of the study’s 6,000 respondents passed away in the 14 years following the study.
Although the MIDUS study was wide-ranging, a portion of the study asked participants to respond to a series of questions which gauged positive and negative emotions. The participants who responded in a more positive frame to questions about their purpose in life were less likely to have passed away in the subsequent 15 years than those who expressed no purpose in life.
These longevity benefits did not appear to be conditional on the participants’ age, how long they lived during the follow-up period, or whether they had retired from the workforce,’’ the study said. “In other words, having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.”
While having a purpose in life has often been cited as a way to remain vital in terms of lifestyle in senior years, the surprising results of the study showed that finding a purpose in life at a young age can affect mortality rates.
“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” said researcher Patrick Hill of Carleton University. “So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”
The study also showed that retirement status is not as much a predictor of mortality as being purposeful in life. Retired or working, having a personal focus seems to be a way to stay alive, the researchers said.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.