Is the ‘secret to life’ a matter of wealth? Or is it connected to our understanding of the world? According to two studies based on the results from a US survey, the real key to a fruitful existence is purpose which is directly linked to a longer life and a higher income.
The first study, published in Psychological Science, was conducted in 2014 by Patrick Hill at Carleton University in Canada and Nicholas Turiano at West Virginia University. The pair analysed data from 6,000 participants who took part in a US survey called Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) that revisited participants at various points in their lives.
Hill and Turiano looked at longevity in their first analysis by comparing the first results with ones taken 14 years later. They discovered that of the 6,000 sample, 570 had died – that’s around 9%. Those participants who agreed with statements like “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them” and disagreed with “I live life one day at a time and don’t really think about the future” — were more likely to outlive those who thought the exact opposite.
“Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose,” Hill said in a statement. “These findings suggest that there’s something unique about finding a purpose that seems to be leading to greater longevity.”
Having a strong sense of meaning and purpose doesn’t just affect our years; it can have a direct connection to our wallets. In a follow-up study, published in 2016 in the Journal of Research in Personality, Hill and Turiano turned again to the MIDUS survey results and this time took a 4600-participant sample and examined a nine-year gap. Once again, those who answered earlier questions with a purposeful response were shown to have a better grasp of their financial situation. More purposeful people showed an increase of $4,461 in income and $20,857 in net worth over the study’s time period, from about 1995 to 2004.
Researchers suggest that the reason for this uptick in finances is because those same participants began the study with higher net worth and greater annual income than their less-purposeful counterparts. They also believe that greater engagement in day-to-day lives has a direct effect on this figure as well; the more active we are in our regular routines, the more successful we are overall.
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