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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Purposeful Life Might Be a Longer Life

Those who had activities, people they cared about were more likely to be alive at end of 14-year study

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- You may live longer if you feel you have a purpose in life, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 6,000 people who were asked if they felt they had a purpose in life and about their relations with others. The participants were then followed for 14 years. During that time, about 9 percent of them died.

Those who died during the follow-up had reported feeling less purpose in life and having fewer positive relationships than the survivors, according to the study published recently in the journal Psychological Science.

Having greater purpose in life was also associated with lower risk of death in younger, middle-aged and older adults. This consistency across all age groups came as a surprise to the investigators.

"There are a lot of reasons to believe that being purposeful might help protect older adults more so than younger ones," lead researcher Patrick Hill, of Carleton University in Canada, said in a journal news release.

"For instance, adults might need a sense of direction more, after they have left the workplace and lost that source for organizing their daily events. In addition, older adults are more likely to face [death] risks than younger adults," he explained.

The results could be used to help promote healthy aging, according to the researchers.

"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," Hill said. "So the earlier someone comes to a direction for life, the earlier these protective effects may be able to occur."

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