from the world's big
Having a purpose in life can affect how long you live
New research shows that aimlessness can be fatal.
- New research examined the association between life purpose and mortality and found that individuals who felt they had no purpose in life tended to die earlier.
- Study participants with low life purpose scores typically died from cardiovascular and digestive tract conditions.
- The researchers speculate that this could be due to elevated and chronic inflammation caused by a low sense of psychological well-being.
The Japanese word ikigai translates roughly to "to live the realization that one hopes for" or "that which makes life worth living." It's a concept that refers to the intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs from you, and what you can get paid for. In essence, it is what one's purpose in life is. Now, new research published in the journal JAMA Network Open shows that having a purpose in life is linked to living longer and healthier. Rather than Japan's ikigai, this article defined purposeful living along more Western terms as "a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals."
This study used data from the Health and Retirement Survey, or HRS. Starting in 1996, the HRS has been administered to about 20,000 individuals over the age of 50 every two years and includes a slew of questions on demographics, physical and mental health, and other subjects. Critical to this research, the HRS began incorporating survey questions designed to measure life purpose in 2006, such as asking participants to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements like "I enjoy making plans for the future and working to make them a reality" and "my daily activities often seem trivial and unimportant to me."
This study specifically looked at the nearly 7,000 people who received the modified HRS in 2006 and met the study's inclusion criteria. The researchers crafted a life purpose score based on the participants' answers and followed-up with the participants five years later. During this period of time, 776 of the study participants had died. After conducting a statistical analysis, the researchers found that individuals who scored low for life purpose were more than twice as likely to have died in the five years after 2006.
What's behind this finding?
It could be that this result was a case of reverse causality; rather than having low life purpose and subsequently dying, these individuals could have had, say, a life-threatening disease that caused them to feel as though their life had no purpose. But incredibly, the result still held when individuals with chronic and fatal conditions were excluded from the analysis, though slightly weakened. The researchers also took into account other variables that might affect life purpose and mortality, such as depression, optimism, anxiety, social participation, and so on — it seems as though not having a purpose in life can be fatal.
Overall, individuals with low life purpose scores died due to cardiovascular and digestive tract conditions. But if there really is a connection between life purpose and mortality, what's the cause?
The authors speculated that inflammation may be responsible. Purposeful living is a significant contributor to overall well-being, and research has shown that stronger well-being is related to the reduced expression of genes that code for inflammation and with reduced cortisol levels, which is the hormone responsible for stress. Evidence exists, too, that higher levels of inflammatory proteins are associated with increased mortality. It could be that having no purpose in one's life leads to chronically higher levels of inflammation. Researchers believe that chronic inflammation is behind a number of serious conditions, like coronary artery disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer.
Lead author Aliya Alimujiang clarified the big picture. "There seems to be no downside to improving one's life purpose, and there may be benefits," she said. But this begs the question of how one can improve one's life purpose. "Previous research," said Alimujiang, "has suggested that volunteering and meditation may improve psychological well-being." Exercise and social interaction has also been shown to improve well-being. But in addition to these strategies, one can simply try to find a purpose for living. Of course, that's not so easy. In the video below, Rob Bell, author of How to Be Here, explains how to find purpose through ikigai:
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
A recent study on monkeys found that stimulating a certain part of the forebrain wakes monkeys from anesthesia.
- Scientists electrically stimulated the brains of macaque monkeys in an effort to determine which areas are responsible for driving consciousness.
- The monkeys were anesthetized, and the goal was to see whether activating certain parts of the brain would wake up the animals.
- The forebrain's central lateral thalamus seems to be one of the "minimum mechanisms" necessary for consciousness.
Pixabay<p>When the team electrically stimulated a part of the brain called the central lateral thalamus, located in the forebrain, the monkeys woke up: they opened their eyes, blinked, reached out, made facial expressions and showed altered vital signs. </p><p>"We found that when we stimulated this tiny little brain area, we could wake the animals up and reinstate all the neural activity that you'd normally see in the cortex during wakefulness," Saalmann told Cell Press. "They acted just as they would if they were awake. When we switched off the stimulation, the animals went straight back to being unconscious."</p><p>This area of the brain may function as an "engine for consciousness," Redinbaugh told Inverse. Although past studies have shown that electrical stimulation can arouse the brains of humans and animals, the new findings are unique because they reveal which specific neural interactions appear to be minimally necessary for consciousness.</p><p>"Science doesn't often leave opportunity for exhilaration, but that's what that moment was like for those of us who were in the room," Redinbaugh told <a href="https://www.inverse.com/science/first-squid-mri-study-brain-complexity-similar-dogs" target="_blank"><em>Inverse</em></a><em>.</em></p>
Future applications<p>The team said the findings could have many applications down the road, but more research is needed.</p><p>"The overriding motivation of this research is to help people with disorders of consciousness to live better lives," Redinbaugh told Cell Press. "We have to start by understanding the minimum mechanism that is necessary or sufficient for consciousness, so that the correct part of the brain can be targeted clinically."</p><p>"It's possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas. Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious."</p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?