Finding your purpose — a rewarding life mission or direction — can bring you joy, make you healthier and add years to your life, according to a new study conducted at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
The study is not the first to show that people who have a higher sense of purpose are likely to have more energy, drive and resilience than others, but it is one of the first to identify a strong connection between purpose and cardiovascular health.
“Possessing a high sense of purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk for mortality and cardiovascular events,” according to study authors Randy Cohen, M.D., and Alan Rozanski, M.D., and their team.
The Link Between Purpose and Health
To understand the relationship between a purpose-driven life and the risk of death or cardiovascular disease, the researchers pooled information from 10 studies that included data on 136,000 people from the United States and Japan.
Each study evaluated purpose as life, or “usefulness to others,” or the Japanese concept of ikigai, translated as “a life worth living.”
Study participants were followed for an average of seven years and were an average age of 67.
After adjusting study findings to account for other factors that might interfere with longevity, the mortality rate was about 20 percent lower for study participants with a strong sense of purpose, or ikigai.
A high sense of purpose in life was also related to a lower risk of heart attack or other cardiovascular events.
“Recent studies provide evidence that positive psychosocial factors can promote healthy physiological functioning and greater longevity,” said the study’s authors. “Of note, having a strong sense of life purpose has long been postulated to be an important dimension of life, providing people with a sense of vitality motivation and resilience,” Rozanski said in a Mount Sinai interview.
Finding Your Purpose
If you’re worrying that your life is lack meaning because you not actively trying to save the world, you have misinterpreted what it means to have a higher purpose. The first step is to relax. While self-help authors from Wayne Dyer to Iyanla Vanzant have written volumes on developing a purpose-driven life, don’t be distressed if you feel you’re not living up to the latest, new-age ideal.
Rather, think of finding a higher purpose as deciding what’s really important to you. Whether it’s a certain volunteer mission, writing your family’s story or becoming the best ballroom dancer on your block. Search for something that you can commit to, feel passionate about and genuinely enjoy.