Sense of purpose in life linked to lower mortality and cardiovascular risk

Terms: Uncategorized

Sense of purpose in life linked to lower mortality and
cardiovascular risk


People who have a higher sense of purpose in life are at
lower risk of death and cardiovascular disease, reports a pooled data analysis
inPsychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official
journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.


“Possessing a high sense of purpose in life is
associated with a reduced risk for mortality and cardiovascular events,”
according to the study by Drs. Randy Cohen and Alan Rozanski and colleagues at
Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, New York. While the mechanisms behind
the association remain unclear, the findings suggest that approaches to
strengthening a sense of purpose might lead to improved health outcomes.


How Does Purpose in Life Affect Health and Mortality


Using a technique called meta-analysis, the researchers
pooled data from previous studies evaluating the relationship between purpose
in life and the risk of death or cardiovascular disease. The analysis included
data on more than 136,000 participants from ten studies — mainly from the
United States or Japan. The US studies evaluated a sense of purpose or meaning
in life, or “usefulness to others.” The Japanese studies assessed the
concept of ikigai, translated as “a life worth living.”


The study participants, average age 67 years, were
followed up for an average of seven years. During this time, more than 14,500
participants died from any cause while more than 4,000 suffered cardiovascular
events (heart attack, stroke, etc).


The analysis showed a lower risk of death for
participants with a high sense of purpose in life. After adjusting for other
factors, mortality was about one-fifth lower for participants reporting a
strong sense of purpose, or ikigai.


A high sense of purpose in life was also related to a
lower risk of cardiovascular events. Both associations remained significant on
analysis of various subgroups, including country, how purpose in life was
measured, and whether the studies included participants with pre-existing
cardiovascular disease..


There is a well-documented link between “negative
psychosocial risk factors” and adverse health outcomes, including heart
attack, stroke, and overall mortality. “Conversely, more recent study
provides evidence that positive psychosocial factors can promote healthy
physiological functioning and greater longevity,” according to the


The new analysis assembles high-quality data from studies
assessing the relationship between purpose life and various measures of health
and adverse clinical outcomes. The researchers write, “Together, these
findings indicate a robust relationship between purpose in life and mortality
and/or adverse cardiovascular outcomes.”


While further studies are needed to determine how purpose
in life might promote health and deter disease, preliminary data suggest a few
basic mechanisms. The association might be explained physiologically, such as
by buffering of bodily responses to stress; or behaviorally, such as by a
healthier lifestyle.


“Of note, having a strong sense of life purpose has
long been postulated to be an important dimension of life, providing people
with a sense of vitality motivation and resilience,” Dr. Rozanski
comments. “Nevertheless, the medical implications of living with a high or
low sense of life purpose have only recently caught the attention of
investigators. The current findings are important because they may open up new
potential interventions for helping people to promote their health and sense of


Randy Cohen, Chirag Bavishi, Alan Rozanski. Purpose
in Life and Its Relationship to All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular
Events.Psychosomatic Medicine, 2015; 1 DOI:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000274






/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;