Continuing the series looking at Purpose in Life, I undertook a search in Medline for articles on ‘Purpose in Life’ in the context of caregiving. The search phrase “purpose in life” retrieved 324 papers some of which did not have abstracts. The abstracts of papers were examined for relevance to caregiving and resulted in 5 papers which were included in this brief overview of the literature. In this study, researchers looked at the ability of people to disengage from their goals and adjust (or reengage) their goals in relation to caregiving for a family member with mental illness. The researchers found that goal reengagement was positively correlated with purpose in life but also with caregive burden. Interestingly though the researchers found that goal reengagement modified the relationship between caregiver burden and depressive symptoms. Paid carers for people with severe mental illness identified three types of meaning in relation to caregiving one of which was ‘existential purpose-in-life’ in this study. Strength of Purpose in Life was positively correlated with perceived health in caregivers for spouses with advanced cancer in this study. In a Japanese study looking at caregivers for frail older adults, purpose in life in the caregiver modified caregiver burden. Both positive and negative appraisal of care were associated with sense of purpose in life in caregivers in this Japanese study. In conclusion, strength of Purpose in Life was positively correlated with perceived health in caregivers and also modified caregiver burden. Goal setting and more specifically adjustment of goals was correlated with strength of Purpose in Life and might represent an important mediator of the effect of Purpose in Life on health benefits in caregiving particularly in relation to the concept of locus of control. However it should be noted that this review has identified a small number of papers suggesting that further research is needed in this area before reliable conclusions can be drawn specifically regarding caregiving. Nevertheless the relationship between Purpose in Life and perceived health is replicated elsewhere in other populations.
Appendix – Blog Articles on Purpose in Life
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