Greater Purpose in Life Linked to Reduced Risk of Alzheimer’s
Individuals who report having greater purpose in their lives appear less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, according to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
“Purpose in life, the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life’s experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior, has long been hypothesized to protect against adverse health outcomes,” wrote Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The researchers assessed this quality in more than 900 community-dwelling older adults without dementia who were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.
Participants’ purpose in life was measured by their level of agreement with statements such as, “I feel good when I think of what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in the future” and “I have a sense of direction and purpose in life.” After an average of four years and a maximum of seven years of annual follow-up clinical evaluations, 155 of 951 participants (16.3%) developed Alzheimer’s disease. After controlling for other related variables, greater purpose in life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Specifically, individuals with a score of 4.2 out of 5 (90th percentile) on the purpose in life measure were approximately 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s disease than individuals with a score of 3 (10th percentile).
The result may have public health implications. “In particular, these findings may provide a new treatment target for interventions aimed at enhancing health and well-being in older adults. Purpose in life is a potentially modifiable factor that may be increased via specific behavioral strategies that help older persons identify personally meaningful activities and engage in goal-directed behaviors,” the authors wrote. “Even small behavioral modifications ultimately may translate into an increased sense of intentionality, usefulness, and relevance.”
— Source: American Medical Association