Purpose in Life – An Overview of the Literature – Part 1

Having a purpose in life appears to have significant associations with health and well-being. I undertook a brief overview of a number of review articles in the medical literature looking at purpose in life. In a conceptual analysis of spirituality at the end-of-life the researchers identified ‘meaning and purpose in life’ as one of 11 dimensions. However in this paper, Koenig distinguishes spirituality from ‘purpose in life’ referring to the latter as a ‘positive character trait’ (although Koenig does suggest a relationship between religion and purpose in life in this paper). Meditation in the context of psychotherapy is discussed in this paper and the author suggests that it has an important relationship with purpose in life. In this paper, the researchers suggest that purpose in life is a component of resilience and that this contributes to a reduction in negative outcomes in children of people who misuse substances. A ‘positive purpose in life’ is advocated in this paper in which the authors suggest that it facilitates recovery from substance misuse. The concept is developed further in this paper where consuming is compared with altruism. The authors of this paper discuss the Danish Quality of Life Survey in which they surveyed 10,000 people and asked over 300 questions relating to quality of life. They incorporate the concept of purpose in life in their term ‘being’ and suggest that this is equivalent to Antonovosky’s ‘coherence’, Maslow’s ‘transcendence’ and Frankl’s ‘meaning of life’. They describe a ‘quality of life philosophy’ which they used with patients resulting in them viewing their lives as ‘more meaningful’. In the rehabilitation setting, the authors of this paper suggest that a ‘new meaning and purpose in life’ is an essential part of recovery from illness. In this paper by liaison psychiatrists there is an exploration of the demoralisation syndrome (see also review here). They focus on the differentiation of demoralisation syndrome from depression with anhedonia being a characteristic of the latter. They identify a loss of ‘meaning and purpose in life’ as a feature of the hopelessness in demoralisation syndrome and that this hopelessness is associated with suicidal ideation. They argue about the importance of recognising demoralisation syndrome as an illness.

Appendix

Having a Purpose in Life and the Risk of Cognitive Decline

Having a Purpose in Life Reduces the Risk of Death

Purpose in Life and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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3 thoughts on “Purpose in Life – An Overview of the Literature – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 2: Scales « The Amazing World of Psychiatry: A Psychiatry Blog

  2. Pingback: Purpose in Life: A Brief Overview of the Literature – Part 3. Depression and Purpose in Life « The Amazing World of Psychiatry: A Psychiatry Blog

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