Having a sense of purpose isn’t just good for business. It’s good for your health, too. According to a new study in Psychological Science, a greater sense of purpose is associated with longer life spans.
Researchers from Carleton University in Canada and the University of Rochester examined data from Midlife in the United States, a national longitudinal study funded by the National Institute on Aging. As part of the study, 6,000 participants between the ages of 20 and 75 self-reported information about their purpose in life. During the 14-year follow-up period to the study, 569 of the participants died.
The researchers found that those who died tended to have a lower reported purpose in life, based on their responses to statements like, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.” Across all age ranges in the sample, having a clearer purpose predicted lower mortality rates.
However, the study sample was predominantly white, making it difficult to extrapolate the results to a broad cross-section of race and ethnicity (though past research has found similar results with Japanese participants).
“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” Patrick Hill, the study’s lead author, explained in a press statement. “So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur.”