Does a Purpose-Driven Life Promote Positive Aging?

The two most import days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”Mark Twain

What is Purposeful Living?

We have all asked the eternal question:  what is the key to living a long and healthy life? We have learned through research that moderation (self-control), mental stimulation (reading, going to the museum, learning new things), a regular exercise routine, healthy eating, regular physical check-ups, and even socialization are key contributors to longevity. However, compelling research is showing that “purposeful living” – having a sense of purpose in life, can also be a strong factor in successful and healthy aging and greatly reduce the risk of early mortality, cognitive decline and dementia-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

According to the study: “Purpose in Life is Associated with Mortality Among Community-Dwelling Older Persons,” conducted by the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and led by Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, purpose in life is “the sense that life has meaning and direction and that one’s goals and potential are being achieved or are achievable.”  Further, the study states that greater purpose in life has been shown to be associated with several psychological outcomes, including a more positive outcome on life, happiness, satisfaction, and self-esteem.  [1]

To examine the association of purpose in life with the risk of mortality, the study interviewed and followed 1,200 individuals over a five-year period using select questions from the Ryff and Keyes’ scale of Psychological Well-Being questionnaire, to measure their sense of purpose.

The Ryff Scale is based on six factors; (higher total scores indicate higher psychological well-being):

  1. Autonomy:  Ability to be independent and regulate behavior independent of social pressures.
  2. Environmental Mastery:  Ability to manage everyday affairs and creating situations to benefit personal needs
  3. Personal Growth: Continuing to develop and to be open to new experiences.
  4. Positive Relations with Others: Ability to engage in meaningful relationships with others that include reciprocal empathy, intimacy, and affection.
  5. Purpose in Life: Goal-oriented. Strong conviction that life holds meaning.
  6. Self-Acceptance: To have a positive attitude about Self.  [2]

Research findings demonstrated that individuals with a greater sense of purpose in life had a substantially lower risk of dying over several years of follow-up compared to those with lower levels of purpose in life. Moreover, the association of purpose with mortality did not vary by age, gender, or education, suggesting that purpose in life is beneficial for all.

How to Create Meaning and Purpose in our Daily Lives:

Research has linked higher purpose with more positive health outcomes. People with higher purpose not only live longer, but they also have a reduced risk of debilitating conditions, such as stroke, myocardial infarction, loss of physical functioning and cognitive decline and dementia-related diseases.

If you feel like you are just going through the motions of life and not fully engaged with your family, friends, daily activities and SELF, Jack Canfield, author and motivational speaker, recommends the following 10 steps to help find your passion and life purpose:

  1. Explore things that you love to do.
  2. Identify what comes easy to you.
  3. Ask yourself what qualities you enjoy expressing most in the world.
  4. Follow your heart!
  5. Be clear about your life purpose. What do you want to do with your life?
  6. Conduct the Passion Test, developed by Chris and Janet Atwood.
  7. Take time for yourself.
  8. Create goals.
  9. Align your goals with your life purpose and passion.
  10. Start living your purpose day by day.

To learn more about Jack Canfields’ 10 Life Purpose Tips, visit  


[1] Boyle PA, Barnes LL, Buchman AS, Bennett DA. Purpose in life is associated with mortality among community-dwelling older persons. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2009;71:574–579.  [2]Seifert, T. A. (2005). The Ryff scales of psychological well-being. Assessment Notes  



Last Updated on April 29, 2020

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