Purpose in life as a predictor of mortality across adulthood

Psychol Sci. 2014 Jul;25(7):1482-6. doi: 10.1177/0956797614531799. Epub 2014 May 8.


Having a purpose in life has been cited consistently as an indicator of healthy aging for several reasons, including its potential for reducing mortality risk. In the current study, we sought to extend previous findings by examining whether purpose in life promotes longevity across the adult years, using data from the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) sample. Proportional-hazards models demonstrated that purposeful individuals lived longer than their counterparts did during the 14 years after the baseline assessment, even when controlling for other markers of psychological and affective well-being. Moreover, these longevity benefits did not appear to be conditional on the participants' age, how long they lived during the follow-up period, or whether they had retired from the workforce. In other words, having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.

Keywords: adult development; aging; open data; open materials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Motivation*
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • United States
  • Value of Life*
  • Young Adult