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A Sense of Purpose = Longer Life

Having a high sense of purpose in life appears to lower your risk of death and cardiovascular disease. That conclusion comes from an analysis of 10 studies conducted in the U.S. and Japan involving data on 136,265 participants whose average age was 67. The men and women were followed for an average of 7 years during which more than 14,500 of them died and more than 4,000 suffered a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event. The researchers found after adjusting for other factors that the death rate was about 20 percent lower for the participants who reported a strong sense of purpose in life (this is called ikigai in Japanese, which translates to “a life worth living”.) The authors of the investigation, from Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, noted a “well documented link” between “negative psychosocial risk factors” and heart attack, stroke and overall death and wrote that more recent evidence suggests that positive psychosocial factors can lead to better health and longer life. The study didn’t explain the mechanisms of how a purposeful life could promote health and deter disease, but the researchers suggested that a sense of purpose might help buffer physical responses to stress or perhaps, simply lead to a healthier lifestyle.