People who feel a sense of purpose in their lives are more likely to live a long, healthy life, according to new research.
The study, based on a large cohort of 6,985 people, was led by Dr. Leigh Pearce, epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who specializes in surviving cancer and improving the quality of life.
After a conversation with a colleague who is researching life goals, Dr. Pearce decided to do her work to answer this question.
She wanted to confirm whether meaningfulness reduces the risk of mortality – an idea that has received steam and solid evidence in recent years – would be true in such a large group.
Her findings, which compile to form a remarkably uniform graph that shows exactly that, dr. Pearce believes it is worth developing tools to get a sense of meaning in the light of gloomy diagnoses – whether they are apps or therapy techniques.
The Michigan team unambiguously discovered that of the 6,000 adults who completed the & # 39; life purpose & # 39; questions, there was a strong correlation between those who felt a sense of purpose and lived longer
People have been searching for souls, existential beings for years, since we painted on cave walls and created the structures of worship – a few hundred thousand years ago.
It is not exactly clear why we developed a need for meaning, while other species did not, but it did is clearly that our pursuit of meaning is just as deeply rooted in a human instinct as hunting wolves.
Dr Pearce's study, published today in the JAMA Network Open journal, adds.
Her team looked at data from a questionnaire of seven items, completed by approximately 8,000 people over 50 in 2006.
Many of their answers related to & # 39; life purpose & # 39; and & # 39; satisfaction with life & # 39 ;, and they were categorized on a scale of 0-6.
The life purpose, in this study, was defined as & # 39; a self-organizing life purpose that encourages goals, promotes healthy behavior and gives meaning to life & # 39 ;.
They then compared their answers years later with their physical health and death data and, unambiguously, discovered that of the 6,000 adults who completed the & # 39; life purpose & # 39; life felt longer.
People with a sense of purpose, they thought, go to the doctor sooner, create a community and adopt healthier habits.
They are also more likely to get better results after a stroke.
Try to & # 39; meaning & # 39; in health care has already been tried, tested and successful in some parts of the world, especially in Japan, where the philosophy of ikigai – something to live for, the joy and purpose of life & # 39; – is part of the culture from birth to death.
There has been resistance in the US over the decades since Freud because psychologists have sought to be recognized as & # 39; legitimate & # 39; scientists, rather than dreamers.
But with all this robust and growing evidence, it is only logical that we try to apply the findings in a practical sense, particularly to help people who are diagnosed by their sense of purpose and mortality.
There are a number of challenges to help this move forward.
Firstly, this study only included data on people over 50. The effects may be different for younger population groups.
Second, and more importantly, & # 39; goal & # 39; different for everyone, especially when our whole sense of meaning and purpose is challenged.
In some it is family; in some it is a legacy of written works, art or a foundation.
Religion has been a blessing to people, making us feel relaxed in the face of death, knowing that there is something to look forward to and that we are more than our degrading bodies. Indeed, research has repeatedly shown that religious people feel more peaceful, happy and less nervous – everything that has to do with good health.
But for some, nature yields that.
This week, for example, the New York Times told the story of Isabella de la Houssaye, a 55-year-old mother with stage 4 lung cancer who strives to make extraordinary trips with each of her children. She rode an Ironman triathlon with a son and climbed the Andes with her daughter.
& # 39; It is very individualized, & # 39; said Dr. Pearce to DailyMail.com.
& # 39; But what is interesting is that I think about whether there is a general approach to helping people find what is most important to them. Helping someone to better understand what drives them, what their purpose is, their meaning.
& # 39; And because it can be individualized, that is where the value is. There is no one-size-fits-all. But that means that you can develop it in your own way. & # 39;
Helping someone else to get their own meaning is difficult, partly because he feels it meaning is different than feeling happy, like this 2012 study from Florida State University.
We are happy to receive gifts, to have less on our plates and to be excited and fulfilled in the here and now. But only focusing on the present and being less productive hinders our sense of meaning.
We feel meaning when we think about the past and the future – things that can make us nervous in the short term – and when we give, work and set our ultimate goals for our comfort.
There are, however, attempts to find and achieve that balance, and Dr. Pearce is enthusiastic about the potential.
Mindfulness has proven beneficial in breast cancer patients, she emphasizes, and new efforts are being made to develop apps such as Purposeful, a & # 39; life coach & # 39; on your phone.
Her next research, currently underway, is exploring the use of life coach apps for women with ovarian cancer diagnoses, looking at how effective it is in various stages of disease, remission, or recurrence.
Then she hopes to see how this might work for healthcare providers who do high percentages of burnout and poor health.
& # 39; It's a deviation from the work I've done, but I think it can benefit, and the evidence is very robust. & # 39;
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