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The New York Times blog, “The New Old Age”, is continually a source of information for me. The articles they post are always very timely and interesting. A recent post by Paula Span, “Living on Purpose”, is no different. The post focuses on research that argues that leading a purposeful life can increase one’s health and longevity.

An excerpt from Ms. Span’s article about leading a purposeful life:

It turns out that purpose is, on many counts, a good thing to have, long associated with satisfaction and happiness, better physical functioning, even better sleep. “It’s a very robust predictor of health and wellness in old age,” said Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

She and her colleagues have been tracking two cohorts of older people living independently in greater Chicago, assessing them regularly on a variety of physical, psychological and cognitive measures. The subjects agreed to donate their brains after their deaths.

What have the scientists learned? Let’s start with arguably the most feared disease of old age. Following almost 1,000 people (age 80, on average) for up to seven years, Dr. Boyle’s team found thatthe ones with high purpose scores were 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer’s than those with low scores; they were also less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, often a precursor.

“It also slowed the rate of cognitive decline by about 30 percent, which is a lot,” Dr. Boyle added.

Purposeful people were less likely to develop disabilities. And they were less likely to die: a sample of 1,238 people followed for up to five years (average age: 78) by Rush researchers found that those with high purpose had roughly half the mortality rate of those with low purpose.

For more information about this study and further ways that leading a purposeful life can improve a person’s health and longevity, read the full article.

This article originally appeared on

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