The following is a brief overview of the literature on Purpose in Life in adulthood. A search was conducted on Medline using the search term “purpose in life”. Abstracts were searched for those in which adulthood was the focus. Exclusion criteria – articles that examined the relationship between Purpose in Life and illness were excluded even if they involved an adult population. The search revealed a single paper. This study (n=830) looked at the relationship between workload and psychological well-being outcome measures in ‘white-collar workers’. The researchers found that in men but not women, paid work was associated with lower scores on the purpose in life score. The researchers were comparing paid and unpaid work.
What I found interesting from this search was that in comparison with adolescence and older adulthood there was a paucity of studies looking at purpose in life. Although this may be in part due to the limited search terms used this should also be reflected in searches for the other lifespan categories which are nevertheless well represented. One possible reason for this is that investigating purpose in life in the adult population is less interesting to researchers possibly because by adulthood this is well established. Although a number of studies include adult populations the researchers in these studies are asking questions about specific illnesses rather than looking at lifespan issues. Given the number of positive findings relating purpose in life outcomes to positive health outcomes in illness, the characterisation of Purpose in Life in health would appear to be a useful starting point for asking why these effect are being seen.
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