Having strong life goals not only has spiritual but also physical benefits.
A new study shows that conscious life in people over the age of 50 is associated with a reduced risk of premature death. New results released on Thursday (May 23) at JAMA Network Open Magazine.
A team of researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed data from nearly 7,000 people over 50 who participated in a national survey which began in 1992 and completed a psychological questionnaire in 2006.
Participants were asked to rate how they like to say “I like making plans for the future and trying to make it happen” and “my daily activities often seem trivial and meaningless”; then people get “results for the purpose of life”. The researchers then compared these results with the mortality rates of participants over the next five years. During this time 776 participants died.
Those with the lowest life scores died more than twice as often in the follow-up period as those who had the highest life scores, said the study. People with lower life outcomes are more likely to die of heart disease or blood disorders.
The results are also determined after considering several factors that can affect people’s life expectancy or their risk of death, for example. For example, do participants suffer from depression.
“It seems there is no harm in increasing life goals, and there will be benefits,” said lead author Alija Alymujan, a graduate student at the University of Michigan Public Health School. “Previous research has shown that volunteerism and meditation can improve mental well-being.”
The next step for this research is to determine whether life improvement measures really function and whether increasing their life goals leads to good health outcomes such as improving quality of life, he added.
According to the researchers, there are several possible reasons why life goals can prolong life. Previous research has shown that increasing well-being, including targeted life, reduces activation of genes that cause inflammation in the body. In turn, inflammation was previously associated with an increased risk of early death, the study said.
Another study found that stronger life goals were associated with lower levels of “stress hormone” cortisol and low levels of inflammatory molecules in the body. However, in research there are no molecules or biomarkers that are directly measured and linked to health outcomes or death.
One limitation of this study is that researchers cannot rule out the possibility of “reversed causes” in participants with chronic or life-threatening diseases. In other words, chronic or life-threatening diseases can cause people to have lower life goals.
In a subsequent analysis, where researchers excluded people with chronic or life-threatening diseases, the results were still correct, but these results were more likely to be random, the authors said.