What is Purpose in Life?

I’ve written a few articles on Purpose in Life in relation to the medical literature. A few key rating instruments have been designed to assess this construct and have been used in lots of research in this area. However despite all of this, I think its reasonable to ask just exactly what’ Purpose in Life’ means. I don’t think there is a right answer but from the reviews below there are a few themes that have developed. Thus one feature of Purpose in Life is that it is holds meaning for a person. Another is that there is a social aspect to it. Having purpose is about finding a social meaning in life – a meaning which includes other people. This is not an abstract theoretical concept but from the studies below is a belief system that appears to hold significant health benefits. Admittedly many of the studies are small and need replication but there is a theme that keeps emerging. In addition to this, I would further refine this by suggesting that Purpose in Life is a collection of values and it is these values that possibly hold an important key to our very identity, how we forms groups and also to important aspects of our health. There are of course limitations to this approach. There are many factors which contribute to health which are independent of such values but values do hold an important and perhaps underappreciated place in discussions of health. Maybe there is a need to develop a language to describe these values in more detail although that language is partially developed in psychotherapeutic models. If values do play an important role in explaining what Purpose in Life is then  perhaps the values which are likely to be shared will be important in more clearly defining Purpose in Life.  An exploration of values may be a useful starting point.

Appendix – Blog Articles on Purpose in Life

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

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature – Part 6. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan: Older Adulthood

Purpose in Life. An Overview of the Literature Part 7. Purpose in Life Across the Lifespan

Purpose in Life and Conditions of the Heart

Purpose in Life and Rheumatoid Arthritis

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 Caregiving


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.


  1. Do you touch on the fundamental purpose of life in the universe?

    Have you ever sat by a fast running mountain stream and seen those little whirlpools that form and move backwards against the flow of the stream?

    The laws of thermodynamics tell us that everything tends towards lower levels of organisation – things that are ordered become disordered until there is no longer any energy left to do anything.

    Life is one of the ways that the universe facilitates this process – entropy increases more in the presence of life that in its absence.

    In a way you might then see life as the universe’s way of not going down without a fight or of going down kicking and screaming.

    Once we understand that this is all there is to life in the big picture – no matter how complex or primitive and no matter where it exists – then we can see ourselves in true perspective.

    We may choose to look also at life from the perspective of various individual species so that we might also understand that of all species that ever existed, 99.99% are extinct.

    In such a state of inevitable humility, earth life and in particular, human life, can then be examined and all of its beauty, complexity and foibles exemplified in ways that may help us negotiate the path from birth to death.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s