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Purpose and well-being increase longevity

Life is likely to last longer if it has a purpose and seems worthwhile, a new study has revealed.

The study, led by Professor Andrew Steptoe, director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, looked at the well-being of over 9,000 English people with an average age of 65.

All participants were surveyed for "eudemonic well-being". This refers to their sense of control, feeling that what they do is worthwhile and their sense of purpose in life. Based on the results of the survey, participants were ranked into four categories, from low to highest eudemonic well-being.

Once other factors such as terminal illnesses were taken into account, the results of the survey found that those who ranked in the group for highest well-being were 30% less likely to die. On average, they would live two years longer than those in the lowest group. During an 8.5 year period, only 9% of the high well-being category died, compared to 29% in the lowest category.

Of the results, Professor Andrew Steptoe said, “these analyses show that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people have in their lives are related to survival. We cannot be sure that higher well-being necessarily causes lower risk of death, but the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health."

Professor Steptoe concluded that "it is important to continue to engage with the world and other people as we get older”.

“By offering care in their own homes, we hope we’re helping elderly people retain more control over their lives”, said Fiona Lowry, CEO of The Good Care Group, “we pride ourselves on our person-centered approach, which means that in addition to catering to their medical needs, our carers have a vested interest in the emotional and social needs of people in their care”.