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Greater Purpose in Life Linked to Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Rate of cognitive decline is also slower in seniors with a greater purpose in life

TUESDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with a greater purpose in life have a slower rate of cognitive decline and are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, according to a study in the March Archives of General Psychiatry.

Patricia A. Boyle, Ph.D., and colleagues from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, assessed purpose of life, defined as the tendency to derive meaning from life's experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior, among 951 community-dwelling elderly individuals without dementia using the 10-item scale derived from Ryff's Scales of Psychological Well-Being.

During a mean follow up of four years, the researchers found that 16.3 percent of individuals developed Alzheimer's disease. After adjusting for age, sex, and education, having a greater purpose in life was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease (hazard ratio, 0.48). The association remained after further adjusting for depressive symptoms, neuroticism, social network size, and chronic medical conditions (hazard ratio, 0.60). A greater purpose in life was also associated with a significantly lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (hazard ratio, 0.71) and a slower rate of cognitive decline.

"During up to seven years of follow-up, greater purpose in life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease such that a person with a high score (90th percentile) on the purpose in life measure was approximately 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer's disease than was a person with a low score (10th percentile)," Boyle and colleagues conclude.

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