People who have a higher perception of their purpose in life also have a decreased risk of suffering from heart diseases and stroke, according to collaborative research conducted by scientists from Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt hospitals. The findings were recently presented at the EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in Baltimore, and may deepen the current knowledge about the correlation between cardiovascular disease and psychology.
The team analyzed data from 10 different studies that included a total of over 137,000 participants and defined the concept of “having a purpose in life” as “having a sense of meaning and direction,” as well as “the feeling that life is worth living.” Despite the fact that previous studies already connected life purpose to psychological health and well-being, this is the first time that a correlation with heart conditions has been established.
The investigators demonstrated that having a high sense of purpose in life is related to a 23% lower risk of death due for all causes, as well as a 19% lower risk of suffering from heart attack, stroke or ever needing to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure. “Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” explained the lead study author Randy Cohen, MD in a press release.
“Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event,” continued Cohen, who is a preventive cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt. “As part of our overall health, each of us needs to ask ourselves the critical question of ‘do I have a sense of purpose in my life?’ If not, you need to work toward the important goal of obtaining one for your overall well-being.”
The meta-analysis, which was a follow-up study that tracked patients for an average of 8.5 years, also revealed that people who have a lower sense of purpose have a higher probability of suffering cardiovascular events. However, the researchers noted that further studies would be helpful in the definition of strategies addressing people identified with lower sense of life purposes.
“Prior studies have linked a variety of psychosocial risk factors to heart disease, including negative factors such as anxiety and depression and positive factors such as optimism and social support,” added the co-author of the study, Alan Rozanski, MD, who serves as director of Wellness and Prevention Programs for Mount Sinai Heart at the Mount Sinai Health System. “Based on our findings, future research should now further assess the importance of life purpose as a determinant of health and well-being and assess the impact of strategies designed to improve individuals’ sense of life purpose.”