Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Purpose in Life in Older Adults

This is the third in a series of literature reviews of purpose in life across the lifespan. Medline was searched using the term “purpose in life” and retrieved papers were assessed for inclusion according to relevance. Studies which included older adults but focused on a specific illness or other population characteristic were excluded. The studies could be broadly categorised as those investigating physiological and psychological correlates of purpose in life and those examining the relationship between purpose in life and illness measures. The construct of mental QOL (Quality of Life) was significantly correlated with purpose in life in a Japanese study (paper freely available here). In a study of the oldest old there was strong correlation between a number of measures including purpose in life and resilience with the researchers referring to the constructs as representing inner strength. Another construct ‘proactive coping’ measured using the Proactive Coping Inventory was significantly correlated with purpose in life using a component of the Health and Wellbeing scale in an Australian cross-sectional study involving community dwelling older adults. Purpose in life was correlated with functioning using activities of daily living in older adults living in the community in another study. In a qualitative study examining older adult women’s views about purpose in life, this was found to be related to a number of themes and was experienced in daily activities. IL-6 receptor levels were significantly correlated with purpose in life scores in older adult women in one study. Purpose in life mediated the influence of a number of factors on quality of life in a study of older adults (n=420). Being a formal volunteer interacted with a number of factors influenced by purpose in life scores in one study of older adults.

A Swedish 5-year longitudinal study looking at the very old, the researchers found that purpose in life (measured with the Purpose in Life Test (PIL)) decreased over time and that the decrease was significantly correlated with female gender and depression at baseline. The same group also identified an inverse correlation between purpose in life and depression in a cross-sectional analysis. In another Swedish study of people aged 85 years and over, the researchers found that attitudes towards the person’s own health strongly influenced the purpose in life scores. Late-life depression was correlated with loss of purpose in life in a large Japanese study (n=10969). Purpose in life was significantly correlated with a reduction in cognitive decline a large 7-year longitudinal study (paper freely available here and reviewed here). Purpose in life was one of the factors significantly associated with caregiver distress in people caring for older adults at home. High scores of purpose in life were significantly associated with reduced mortality in a study of older adults (paper freely available here – also see another paper freely available here). The physical extent of movement referred to as ‘life space’ was examined in one study of older adults where the researchers found a significantly correlation between increasing extent of movement and purpose in life.

Appendix

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

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 2. Scales

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 3. Depression

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 4. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 5. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Adulthood

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

An index of the site can be found here. The page contains links to all of the articles in the blog in chronological order. Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

One thought on “Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Purpose in Life in Older Adults

  1. Pingback: Purpose In Life Across the Lifespan « The Amazing World of Psychiatry: A Psychiatry Blog

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