People with little reason to live die earlier, study finds

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One hypothesis is that people with little purpose in life have less incentive to stay healthy and active. Photo credit: Getty

A low sense of purpose in life could lead to premature death.

Researchers in the US have found people with goals and responsibilities, such as looking after kids or volunteering, are usually in better health and have lower rates of early death.

University of Michigan researchers studied almost 7000 people aged over 50, and found having a low sense of purpose often results in a greater risk of heart, blood and digestive conditions.

"A growing body of literature suggests having a sense of purpose in life is associated with both physical and mental health and overall quality of life," said co-author Celeste Leigh Pearce.

But they're not sure why. One hypothesis is that people with little purpose in life have less incentive to stay healthy and active.

"I was surprised that an effect could be found over and above the effect coming from greater happiness itself," behavioural science professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick told Newsweek. "Purpose itself appears to be valuable, in some mysterious way... Fixing people's minds might be the best and most inexpensive way to fix their bodies."

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

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