People who perceive their lives to be meaningful also tend to have better health and heightened cognitive function, a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found.
“Many think about the meaning and purpose in life from a philosophical perspective, but meaning in life is associated with better health, wellness and perhaps longevity. Those with meaning in life are happier and healthier than those without it.” – Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging
The study authors analyzed data given by 1,042 adults who answered a series of structured questions over the phone. In the study, participants were conceptualized in two ways: having a strongly perceived meaning in life and searching for meaning.
“Presence refers to the perception that one’s life is meaningful. Search refers to an active pursuit of meaning in one’s life,” said lead researcher Awais Aftab.
Those who perceived their lives as highly meaningful tended to score better on a modified version of the Telephone Interview for Cognitive Status (TCIS-m) and the Short Form 36 Health survey (SF-36), indicating that meaning in life is strongly correlated with higher cognitive function as well as mental and physical health.
Age also played a role in the study as the researchers found an inverse relationship between age and meaning in life vs search for meaning in life.
“When you are young, like in your twenties, you are unsure about your career, a life partner and who you are as a person. You are searching for meaning in life. As you start to get into your thirties, forties, and fifties, you have more established relationships, maybe you are married and have a family and you’re settled in a career. The search decreases and the meaning in life increases.
After age 60, things begin to change. People retire from their job and start to lose their identity. They start to develop health issues and some of their friends and family begin to pass away. They start searching for the meaning in life again because the meaning they once had has changed.” – Senior Author Dilip V. Jeste, MD
Previous research reinforces the notion that a meaningful life positively affects physical and mental health. Past studies have found that meaning in life is closely correlated with lower mortality rates, less impulsiveness, and protection against some of the adverse mental health effects of social media use.
Another study found that eudaimonic activities (those associated with helping others) actually inhibited the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. In contrast, hedonistic activities (gratifying oneself) increased the expression of those genes, leading to lowered immune systems in study participants.
“It’s an exciting time in this field as we are seeking to discover evidence-based answers to some of life’s most profound questions,” Jeste wrote.
Because this is a correlational study, it is unproven whether meaning in life causes good health, good health leads to meaning, or some other variable links the two. However, research does show that men tend to rate having a meaningful job and a positive long-term relationship as among the most important conditions for overall happiness.
Having a long-term relationship is especially important for women as research on over 10,000 women found that having sex at a later age tends toward greater marital stability as well as greater happiness, and women who have more non-marital partners tend to be more prone to STD’s, out-of-wedlock births, single motherhood, less stable marriages, higher depression, and lower happiness.
Frederick Nietzsche famously said, “he who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” It appears having that ‘why to live’ actually makes us stronger as well.
About the Author
Phillip Schneider is a staff writer and assistant editor for Waking Times. If you would like to see more of his work, you can like his Facebook Page, or follow him on the free speech social network Minds.
This article (Meaning in Life Strongly Correlated with Health and Cognitive Function, Study Shows) originally appeared at PhillipSchneider.com and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.