A general feeling of contentment and a sense of social inclusion are well-known for their overwhelming positive impact on physical health. Recent studies are now suggesting that discovering a sense of purpose or direction in one’s life could also have health benefits and even extend your life span.

Elderly women exercising in the park.

Photo by Diabetes Care

According to Patrick Hill, an assistant professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, a purpose means something different to everyone—whether it is contributing to social change, career success, creativity, or simply ensuring your family is happy and healthy. “Often these are individuals who want to produce something that is appreciated by others in written or artistic form, whether it’s music, dance or visual arts,” Hill says. Hill studied the effects of a sense of purpose on physical health in a study with his colleague, Nicholas Turiano of the University of Rochester Medical Center. More than 6,000 people responded to statements such as, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them,” to gauge positive and negative emotions. According to their research, which spanned 14 years of the participants’ lives, those who had reported a greater sense of purpose and direction in life were more likely to outlive their peers.

Study finds people with a sense of purpose will outlive their peers

People with a sense of purpose had a 15 percent lower risk of death, and people found their direction at a variety of different ages, which didn’t seem to make a difference. Individuals in their 20s and even older people stand to feel better both mentally and physically after finding their sense of purpose and peace in life. In Hill’s analysis, a sense of purpose even trumped other factors known to affect longevity, such as age, gender, and emotional well-being.

Having a purpose in life reduces stress

Hill describes this idea of a purpose or direction in one’s life as a “compass or lighthouse that provides an overarching aim and direction in day-to-day lives.” What is still unclear is how exactly this sense of purpose and meaning is able to improve physical health. Hill conceded that purposeful individuals simply may tend to lead healthier lives. However, it is just as possible that finding your purpose can in fact protect you against the harmful effects of stress on the body. Numerous studies are tackling this phenomenon, but taking time to meditate on your unique purpose and direction certainly can’t hurt your chances of a longer and happier life. Maintaining independence in your own home may give you a greater sense of purpose, but it can get more difficult with age. Select Home Care can help you maintain your independence with as much or as little in home care as you need. For more information on in home care companies in Pasadena or Westlake, California, call 877-230-3160.