A strong sense of purpose in life may lower heart disease risk, a new study finds.
The research found that a high sense of purpose reduced the risk of heart disease by 19%.
The risk of death by any cause was reduced by 23% in those who had a high sense of purpose.
The study’s lead author, Dr Randy Cohen, said:
“Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life.
Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event.
As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of ‘do I have a sense of purpose in my life?’
If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being.”
This is not the first study to link a sense of purpose with both physical and psychological benefits:
- A 2009 study of 1,238 elderly people found that those with a sense of purpose lived longer.
- A 2010 study of 900 older adults found that those with a greater sense of purpose were much less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
- Survey data often links a sense of purpose in life with increased happiness.
Sense of purpose
The conclusion comes from a review of 10 different studies.
Together they include data from over 137,000 people.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers also found that people with a lower sense of purpose in life have an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Dr Alan Rozanski, the study’s co-author, said:
“Prior studies have linked a variety of psychosocial risk factors to heart disease, including negative factors such as anxiety and depression and positive factors such as optimism and social support.
Based on our findings, future research should now further assess the importance of life purpose as a determinant of health and well-being and assess the impact of strategies designed to improve individuals’ sense of life purpose.”
The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Dreaming woman image from Shutterstock