So it turns out that knowing and living your life purpose helps you live longer, especially for older adults. According to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago published in Psychosomatic Medicine in June 2009, having purpose in life helps us to find meaning from life’s experiences and have a sense of intention and goals – all of which contributes to successful aging.
Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, and her colleagues studied 1238 community-dwelling elderly participants from two ongoing research studies, the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Minority Aging Research Study. Their average age was 78 and none had dementia. They found that having a sense of purpose in life is associated with a substantially reduced risk of mortality among community-dwelling older persons.
In an interview for Business Week, Dr. Doyle says that one’s life purpose “can be anything -- from wanting to accomplish a goal in life, to achieving something in a volunteer organization, to as little as reading a series of books."
The researchers discuss that although having a sense of purpose in life is important at every age, having a life purpose as an older adult is especially important as it provides a buffer against illness. Doyle suggests that “what this is saying is, if you find purpose in life, if you find your life is meaningful and if you have goal-directed behavior, you are likely to live longer."
It seems that they’re suggesting something we already know – that having a reason to live has a positive relationship on your mental, psychological and physical health.
In the future, Boyle said that the researchers would like “to find out if people can be inspired to have purpose in life, perhaps by being taught to set goals and work toward them.” It will be fascinating to find out if setting an intention or goal and working towards it increases longevity.
Our life purpose is unique and subjective. No one can tell you what you should do for your life purpose – you’re the only one who knows. It rests at the core of who you are and gives you the reason and motivation to throw the covers off when you wake up and get started with your day. Whether it changes over time or remains quite constant, it will always resonate with you.
Do you know your life purpose? Are you living your life’s purpose today?
"The question is not whether we will die, but how we will live." Joan Borysenko