Objective: To assess the net impact of purpose in life on all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events.
Methods: The electronic databases PubMed, Embase, and PsycINFO were systematically searched through June 2015 to identify all studies investigating the relationship between purpose in life, mortality, and cardiovascular events. Articles were selected for inclusion if, a) they were prospective, b) evaluated the association between some measure of purpose in life and all-cause mortality and/or cardiovascular events, and c) unadjusted and/or adjusted risk estimates and confidence intervals (CIs) were reported.
Results: Ten prospective studies with a total of 136,265 participants were included in the analysis. A significant association was observed between having a higher purpose in life and reduced all-cause mortality (adjusted pooled relative risk = 0.83 [CI = 0.75-0.91], p < .001) and cardiovascular events (adjusted pooled relative risk = 0.83 [CI = 0.75-0.92], p = .001). Subgroup analyses by study country of origin, questionnaire used to measure purpose in life, age, and whether or not participants with baseline cardiovascular disease were included in the study all yielded similar results.
Conclusions: Possessing a high sense of purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events. Future research should focus on mechanisms linking purpose in life to health outcomes, as well as interventions to assist individuals identified as having a low sense of purpose in life.