What is the real meaning of life? A study found the answer

The study examines meaning in life and its relationship with physical, mental, and cognitive functioning.


What is the true meaning of life?

No one can tell the actual definition of the meaning of life. For some, it is all about happiness, building a family, and leading life as it is. For some, it is about accumulating wealth, whereas for some, it is all about love.

Many think about the meaning and purpose in life from a philosophical perspective, but the meaning in life is associated with better health, wellness, and perhaps longevity, suggests a new study.

A new study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that meaning in life is essential for health and well-being. However, the relationships differ in adults younger and older than age 60.

The study found that the meaning of life is associated with better physical and mental well-being. In comparison, the search for meaning in life may be associated with worse mental well-being and cognitive functioning.

Dilip V. Jeste, MD, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said, “When you find more meaning in life, you become more contented, whereas if you don’t have a purpose in life and are searching for it unsuccessfully, you will feel much more stressed out.”

The Presence of meaning in life displayed an inverted U-shaped relationship, while the quest for meaning in life demonstrated a U-shaped relation with age. The analysts found that age 60 is when the presence of purpose in life peaks, and the search for the importance of life is at its absolute bottom.

Jeste said, “When you are young, like in your twenties, you are unsure about your career, a life partner, and who you are as a person. You are searching for meaning in life. As you start to get into your thirties, forties, and fifties, you have more established relationships; maybe you are married and have a family, and you’ve settled in a career. The search decreases, and the meaning in life increases.”

“After age 60, things begin to change. People retire from their job and start to lose their identity. They start to develop health issues, and some of their friends and family begin to pass away. They start searching for the meaning in life again because the meaning they once had has changed.”

A total of 1,042 adults, ages 21 to 100-plus, were involved in the study, where they were assessed with interviews, including a meaning-in-life questionnaire. Participants were then asked to rate items such as “I am seeking a purpose or mission for my life” and “I have discovered a satisfying life purpose.”

Awais Aftab, MD, first author of the paper and a former fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego said, “The medical field is beginning to recognize that meaning in life is a clinically relevant and potentially modifiable factor, which can be targeted to enhance the well-being and functioning of patients. We anticipate that our findings will serve as building blocks for the development of new interventions for patients searching for purpose.”

Further study is required to look at the other areas, such as wisdom, loneliness, and compassion, and how these impact meaning in life. Although examing the biomarkers such as stress, aging, etc., all are associated with searching and finding the purpose in life.

Journal Reference

  1. Awais Aftab, Ellen E. Lee, Federica Klaus, Rebecca Daly, Tsung-Chin Wu, Xin Tu, Steven Huege, Dilip V. Jeste. Meaning in Life and Its Relationship With Physical, Mental, and Cognitive Functioning. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2019; 81 (1) DOI: 10.4088/JCP.19m13064
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