Purpose in Life Affects Mortality Rates in Older Adults

Regardless of gender, race or health status, greater life purpose reduces odds of mortality

THURSDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who score highly on purpose-in-life scales have lower risk of mortality than their counterparts with low scores, according to a study published in the June issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Patricia A. Boyle, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from 1,238 older adults without dementia who had provided baseline information about purpose in life and who were followed up for five years.

The subjects had a mean baseline purpose-in-life score of 3.7, with greater purpose in life indicated by a higher score. In the five years of follow-up, 151 (12.2 percent) of the subjects died, and after adjusting for age, race and education level, there was a significant association between risk of mortality and lower purpose-in-life scores, the investigators found. The hazard rate for those with a purpose-in-life score in the 90th percentile at 4.2 was 57 percent of that of subjects in the 10th percentile, with a score of 3.1, the researchers discovered.

"We suspect that older persons who derive purpose and meaning from life on a daily basis and who set and work toward goals may function better in aging not because they are without negative affect, but rather because they are highly engaged, focused and intentional, and participate in meaningful activities," the authors conclude.

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