Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Collating data from 6,985 adults aged 50 and above, those who scored highest on a scale that measured life purpose were less likely to pass away during the four-year study period. “A higher sense of purpose in life is associated with reduced risk of early death,” said Dr Eric Kim. This notion has been supported by numerous studies, but this is the first research project that added another dimension to the findings.
Described as “an interesting advancement of knowledge”, this study showed that a sense of purpose is associated with specific causes of death.
To be specific, leading a purposeless life was associated with death caused by heart, blood and circulatory diseases.
What is a life purpose?
Harvard Medical School stated that a life purpose generally “indicates that you have an aim in life and goals”.
Researchers have asked people what gives them a sense of purpose in life, with many people listing the following:
- Family and relationships
- Helping others
- Learning new skills
- Taking part in leisure activities or hobbies.
Dr Kim put forward his spin on what living purposefully means to him.
“I define it as the extent to which people experience their lives as being directed and motivated by valued life goals,” he said.
While living purposefully could be said to have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, blood conditions, and digestive conditions, it doesn’t insulate people from other health issues.
To elaborate, the findings found no bearing on life purpose and the death rates from cancer or respiratory conditions.
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Dr Kim recognises there are limitations to the observational study, as it “can’t pin-point causality”.
The research study, which Dr Kim co-authored, was published in the JAMA Network Open journal.
Looking into the literature around the subject of life purpose and longevity, Dr Kim found suggestions as to why purpose could be beneficial to your health.
For instance, it makes you more likely to eat healthier, sleep better, exercise more, or increase your use of preventative health services.
Examples of preventative health services include attending smear tests, breast cancer screenings, and annual check-ups for your blood pressure.
Another possible reason why living with purpose could extend longevity is by helping to reduce stress levels.
“There’s some evidence from lab studies that suggest people with a higher sense of purpose in life are less perturbed by various stressors,” said Kim.
The same group of people were also shown to “recover more quickly when they are more stressed out”.
Living with purpose has also been linked to a reduction in inflammation.
High levels of inflammation in the body is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and other health conditions.
Stress is a known prompt for inflammation in the body, so if people feel less stressed, they’re likely to have less inflammation, and less illnesses.
Dr Kim added that a sense of purpose and longevity is “still an active field of research”.
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