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Having a sense of purpose seen as key to living longer

Jeanne Calmet of France seen in 1897. Born Feb. 21, 1875, she died at the age of 122 on Aug. 4, 1997.
Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

While we all know the importance in maintaining good physical health, the real key to longevity may be found in leading a life of purpose according to a 14-year study that tracked the physical and mental well-being of more than 6,000 Americans between the ages of 20-75.

Finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can actually help you live longer, regardless of when you find that purpose,” noted Patrick Hill, psychology professor at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, who began the study by asking participants to respond to statements such as

”Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.” Other questions involved their overall emotional state and quality of their relationships.

While earlier studies have illustrated purposefulness to be “one of the strongest predictors of a long life,” this is the first research project to concentrate on its impact on mortality separated from other influences, Hill stated. By the time the study concluded, approximately 9% (569 people) had died, “all of whom had actually scored lower than their compatriots when it came to purposefulness,” according to posted results. This also held even after factors such as positive outlook was factored in.

Although scientists now believe it is possible for humans to live as long as 125 years, given the right circumstances, not everyone wants to live that long. Still, the US Census Bureau now predicts that 1 in 9 people born between 1946 and 1964 will continue to live into their 90’s, with “1 in 26 surviving to 100.”

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