London: We know that happiness is associated with a lower risk of death. New research shows that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people have in their lives are also related to survival.
A study of 9,050 British people with an average age of 65 found that people with the greatest wellbeing were 30 percent less likely to die during the average eight-and-a-half-year follow-up period than those with the least wellbeing.
Researchers from the University College London (UCL), Princeton University and Stony Brook University used a questionnaire to measure a type of wellbeing called "eudemonic wellbeing" which relates to your sense of control, feeling that what you do is worthwhile, and your sense of purpose in life.
People were divided into four categories based on their answers, ranked from highest wellbeing to lowest wellbeing.
Over the next eight-and-a-half-years, nine percent of people in the highest wellbeing category had died, compared with 29 percent in the lowest category.
Once all the other factors had been taken into account, people with the highest wellbeing were 30 percent less likely to die over the study period -- living on average two years longer than those in the lowest wellbeing group.
"The findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing wellbeing could help to improve physical health," said professor Andrew Steptoe, director of the UCL institute of epidemiology and health care.
"Further research is now needed to see if such changes might contribute to the links between wellbeing and life expectancy in older people," researchers concluded in a paper published in the journal The Lancet as part of a special series on ageing.