Having a high sense of purpose in life may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a new study led by researchers at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt and presented on March 6 at the American Heart Association’s EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions in Baltimore.
The new analysis defined purpose in life as a sense of meaning and direction, and a feeling that life is worth living. Previous research has linked purpose to psychological health and well-being, but the new Mount Sinai analysis found that a high sense of purpose is associated with a 23 percent reduction in death from all causes and a 19 percent reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure.
“Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” says lead study author Randy Cohen, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt. “Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event. As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of ‘do I have a sense of purpose in my life?’ If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being.”
The research team reviewed 10 relevant studies with the data of more than 137,000 people to analyze the impact of sense of purpose on death rates and risk of cardiovascular events. The meta-analysis also found that those with a low sense of purpose are more likely to die or experience cardiovascular events.
“Prior studies have linked a variety of psychosocial risk factors to heart disease, including negative factors such as anxiety and depression and positive factors such as optimism and social support,” says Alan Rozanski, MD, study co-author and Director of Wellness and Prevention Programs for Mount Sinai Heart at the Mount Sinai Health System. “Based on our findings, future research should now further assess the importance of life purpose as a determinant of health and well-being and assess the impact of strategies designed to improve individuals’ sense of life purpose.”