“Possessing a high sense of purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk for mortality and cardiovascular events,” said one of the researchers, Randy Cohen from Mt. Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, New York.
The findings suggest that approaches to strengthening a sense of purpose might lead to improved health outcomes.
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 US 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 such as heart attack or stroke.
The analysis showed a lower risk of death for participants with a high sense of purpose in life.
Mortality was about one-fifth lower for participants reporting a strong sense of purpose, or ikigai, the findings showed.
A high sense of purpose in life was also related to a lower risk of cardiovascular events.
“Together, these findings indicate a robust relationship between purpose in life and mortality and/or adverse cardiovascular outcomes,” the researchers wrote.
The study appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.