Positive thinking, supporting grandchildren or completing a satisfying project are linked to walking faster, sleeping better and experiencing less chronic pain in later life, new research has found.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), revealed that having a sense of purpose and feeling engaged in ‘worthwhile’ activities promotes health and happiness in later life.
Andrew Steptoe, lead author of the study, said: “As more and more men and women live longer, we need to understand better what factors lead to healthier and happier older age.
“This is a two-way process. Not only do good social relationships and better health contribute to our sense that we are living meaningful lives, but this sense of meaning sustains social and cultural activity, health and wellbeing into the future.”
Researchers analysed data from 7,000 adults, aged over 50, who had taken part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.
Participants were asked how worthwhile the things they did in their life were, on a scale of one to 10.
They found that those with ratings of 9 or 10 walked 18 per cent faster than those with scores of 0-3 and had a 13 per cent higher concentration of vitamin D. They were also twice as likely to report having good sleep.
Participants with low ratings were twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms, and 30 per cent more likely to develop chronic pain.
Dr Daisy Fancourt, lead co-author added: “We do not know what activities the participants in this study thought were worthwhile. For some it might be supporting their families, for others a particular accomplishment in their work or hobby, enjoying nature or perhaps following a favourite sports team. What is important is that the individual finds these activities worthwhile and feels they give a sense of meaning to life.”
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