Public Release: 

Meaningful life tied to healthy aging

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Researchers report that physical and social well-being in old age are linked to self-assessments of life worth. Assessing factors that contribute to a meaningful life, particularly among aging individuals, is a matter of public policy interest. To explore how self-assessments of life worth affect health and behavior, Andrew Steptoe and Daisy Fancourt analyzed data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, in which surveys were conducted among and biomarker data was collected from 7,304 individuals in England, ages 50-90 years, between 2012 and 2016. After controlling for age, sex, education, and occupational prestige, the authors found that compared with low ratings, high ratings for engagement in worthwhile activities were linked to a greater extent with strong personal relationships, healthy lifestyles, sound mental and physical health, affluence, and increased time spent exercising and socializing. High ratings were also associated with biomarkers such as high gait speed, strong hand grip, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high vitamin D concentrations, decreased obesity, low plasma C-reactive protein, and low white blood cell counts. High ratings in 2012 predicted healthy lifestyles, increased relationships and socializing, and reduced loneliness, depression, and health issues in 2016. The findings suggest that a spectrum of behavioral, economic, health, and social variables may influence whether aging individuals believe they are leading meaningful lives, and that such beliefs affect future well-being, according to the authors.

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Article #18-14723: "Leading a meaningful life at older ages and its relationship with social engagement, prosperity, health, biology, and time use," by Andrew Steptoe and Daisy Fancourt.

MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Steptoe, University College London, UK; tel: +44-2076791804; email: a.steptoe@ucl.ac.uk

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