A strong sense of purpose in life helps protect against loneliness, a new study finds.
The sense of purpose could be related to career, parenthood, activism, religion, family ties, artistic endeavours, or many other things.
Feeling that life is meaningful is important because:
- People who feel life is meaningful are more likely to be in both good psychological and good physical health (e.g. a strong sense of purpose may lower heart disease risk).
- People who feel life isn’t meaningful are more likely to be depressed, to require therapy and even feel suicidal.
Dr Yoona Kang, the study’s first author, said:
“In the face of adversity, people with a stronger sense of purpose in life tend to be more resilient because they have a clear sense of goals that motivate actions that are aligned with personal values.
People with strong purpose may also experience less conflict when making health decisions.
We felt that the COVID-19 pandemic was an important context to test whether purpose in life relates to individuals’ willingness to engage in behaviors to protect themselves and others.”
The research, which was conducted in the context of COVID, surveyed over 500 people about their sense of purpose, levels of loneliness and how much they complied with pandemic regulations designed to stop the spread.
The result revealed that a higher sense of purpose was linked to less loneliness.
Dr Kang said:
“When faced with extreme loneliness and social isolation, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, wanting to connect with other people, despite the health risks, is a natural response.
And yet, amidst this drastic shift in social life, we found that people with a higher sense of purpose were more likely to engage in prevention behaviors.
This is striking because it shows that purpose in life can empower people to make life-saving health decisions that protect their own health and those around them.”
The study was published in The Gerontologist (Kang et al., 2021).