For Healthier and Happier 2018, Find a Purpose in Life
New year is a startup with new resolutions to make the coming year prosperous and happier. But for those who want to be healthier this year, finding a purpose in life may be the best way to start the new year.
According to research spearheaded by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, having a sense of purpose contributes to health benefits. This means that people with a higher sense of purpose tend to engage in healthier lifestyle choices and are more likely to feel better about their own health status.
This new finding is confirmed by Patrick Hill, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences.
Hill said, “Our analysis found that participants’ sense of purpose was positively associated with their reports of both vigorous and moderate activity, vegetable intake, flossing, and sleep quality.”
The study was based on an analysis of data from the long-running Hawaii Longitudinal Study of Personality and Health.
The Study And Results
To explore how a sense of purpose contributes to health benefits, the researchers conducted surveys of a diverse group of 749 people in Hawaii with an average age of 60. The participants were initially surveyed as children, part of an original community sample of elementary school students on the islands of Oahu and Kauai, and have been re-contacted as adults to complete surveys approximately every two years. The sample is known for its ethnic and cultural diversity.
One goal of the study was to show that having a purpose in life has positive health effects that are independent of the Big Five personality traits – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
As part of the study, the participants completed measures of sense of purpose, health behaviors and self-reported health, which were joined with their self-reports on the Big Five personality traits from a survey conducted two years earlier.
Here are the interesting results!
The researchers found that participants with higher sense of purpose reported higher zest to choose healthier lifestyle habits.
Hill said, “Participants reporting a higher sense of purpose also reported a greater likelihood to enact all health behaviors of interest and higher self-rated health.”
Based on the findings, Hill stressed that choosing healthy lifestyle habits is a prominent explanation for why purposeful individuals experience better health outcomes.
In addition, the researchers said some behaviors serve as proxies for broader health variables. For instance, if an individual flosses regularly, that person is likely to participate in other healthy activities. Eating vegetables on a regular basis signals healthy eating habits.
Finally, the study revealed that having a sense of purpose had a significant direct effect on self-rated health and a more modest, indirect effect on individual health behaviors.
Hill said, “Participants who reported a higher sense of purpose also reported greater strenuous and moderate activity, likelihood to eat vegetables and floss, as well as better quality sleep.”