Meaning and purpose in life and well-being: a life-span perspective

J Gerontol. 1987 Jan;42(1):44-9. doi: 10.1093/geronj/42.1.44.


Three hundred men and women at five developmental stages from young adulthood to the old-old completed measures of life attitudes and well-being. Significant age differences were found on five life attitude dimensions: Life Purpose (LP), Death Acceptance (DA), Goal Seeking (GS), Future Meaning (FM), and Existential Vacuum (EV). LP and DA increased with age; GS and FM decreased with age; EV showed a curvilinear relationship with age. Significant sex differences were found for Life Control (LC) and Will To Meaning (WM). Women viewed life as more under their control and expressed a stronger will to find meaning as compared with males. FM, LP, and LC were found to predict psychological and physical well-being; EV, GS, and DA predicted psychological and physical discomfort. Preliminary findings attest to the importance of various life attitudes in promoting health and wellness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Attitude to Death
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Sex Factors