NEWS: Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life


Okinawans call it ikigai or “reason for being.” Costa Ricans call it “plan de vida.” Most commonly, though, it’s simply referred to as your life’s purpose. In the blue zones regions of the world, purpose has always played a major role in well-being and the resulting extreme longevity. It’s also believed that the strong sense of purpose possessed by older Okinawans may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce overall inflammation, in turn lowering chances of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and stroke. There continues to be a growing body of research to support the impact of purpose on mental and physical health and how it can lead to longer life expectancy.

Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging, estimated that an ability to define your life meaning adds to your life expectancy. Dr. Butler and collaborators led an NIH-funded study in 2014 that looked at the correlation between having a sense of purpose and longevity. His study found that individuals who expressed a clear goal in life—something to get up for in the morning, something that made a difference—lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

[Related: Richard Leider Explains How to Find Your Purpose]

A more recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has linked a strong sense of purpose with a lower risk of all-cause mortality after age 50. The study followed about 7,000 adults over the age of 50. The participants were interviewed using a questionnaire to rank their life purpose. Researchers assigned life-purpose scores based on participants’ responses and followed up with them five years later. They found that participants who had the lowest life-purpose scores were twice as likely to have died than those with the highest scores.

While this recent study was based on correlative data, there is evidence to suggest that having a strong sense of purpose can impact health and longevity for the long haul.

[Related: The Power of Purpose: 9 Questions for Richard Leider]

Finding Your Purpose

Finding your sense of purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be through your career. It could be found in your hobbies, the volunteer organizations to which you donate your time, the garden in your backyard, or watching your grandchildren grow up. If you’re still looking to find purpose and need an extra boost, take The Purpose Checkup and join the Blue Zones Life Challenge where you will learn how to put your newfound purpose to work.

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