TUESDAY, Jan. 8, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The feeling that life is filled with worthwhile activities may promote healthier aging and help sustain meaningful relationships, according to a study published online Jan. 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Andrew Steptoe, D.Phil., and Daisy Fancourt, Ph.D., both from University College London, surveyed 7,304 men and women aged 50 years and older (mean age, 67.2 years) to assess the impact of the belief that one is living a meaningful life.

The researchers found that higher worthwhile ratings were associated with stronger personal relationships (marriage/partnership, contact with friends), broader social engagement (involvement in civic society, cultural activity, volunteering), less loneliness, and greater prosperity (wealth, income), independent of age, sex, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status. In addition, this association extended to better mental and physical health (self-rated health, depressive symptoms, chronic disease), less chronic pain, less disability, greater upper-body strength, faster walking, less obesity and central adiposity, more favorable biomarker profiles (C-reactive protein, plasma fibrinogen, white blood cell count, vitamin D, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), healthier lifestyles (physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep quality, not smoking), more time spent in social activities and exercising, and less time spent alone or watching television. Over four years, worthwhile ratings predicted positive changes in social, economic, health, and behavioral outcomes, independent of baseline levels.

“These associations were observed both cross-sectionally and longitudinally, suggesting that feeling life is worthwhile contributes to subsequent well-being and human flourishing at older ages,” the authors write.

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