Purpose & Longevity Statistics
If you want to live a long life, find something you want to live for! A sense of purpose has been shown to correlate significantly with health. Every bit of increase in purpose leads to a longer life.
Researchers found that purpose correlated significantly with mortality in a cohort of 8,419 adults. Those with the highest sense of purpose lived the longest while those with less of a sense of purpose lived significantly shorter lives.
The authors of the study defined purpose as "a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals, promotes healthy behaviors, and gives meaning to life."
Essentially, when you feel like you have something to live for, you actually may just live longer as a result.
Purpose & Mortality Risk
How do we know whether a sense of purpose is responsible for a longer life? Could it be that those with a sense of purpose simply make healthier choices in life?
When the authors looked at other factors, it turns out that indeed, some of these differences may have been driven by exercise, psychological health, and other correlated factors.
However, even after adjusting for a whole host of factors such as age, sex, education, race, marital status, functional status, smoking, exercise, alcohol, BMI, depression, and anxiety, researchers still found a 2.4x higher risk of death in those with a low sense of purpose compared to those with a high sense of purpose.
How Purpose Increases Life Expectancy
When researchers looked at the causes of death among different individuals in the study, they found that purpose led specifically to gains in heart health and digestive health.
The differences in mortality rates were driven by heart disease mortality and digestive disease mortality. Those with a low sense of purpose had 2.4x the risk of heart disease compared to those with a high sense of purpose. They also had 2.1x the risk of digestive disease, which includes stomach and colon cancers.
Cancer, the second leading cause of death in the United States, did not appear to be affected by purpose as rates of cancer did not differ significantly.
This suggests that a sense of purpose may affect different organ systems and diseases differently.