Purpose in life and reduced incidence of stroke in older adults: 'The Health and Retirement Study'

Date Published: 
February 2013
Kim ES, Sun JK, Park N, and Peterson C

Understanding psychological factors that may be linked to disease can lead to innovative prevention and treatment efforts. This study examines a positive psychological characteristic—purpose in life—and its relationship to stroke.

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a nationally representative panel study of American adults over the age of 50, this study included 6,739 respondents who were stroke-free at baseline. The study assessed the odds of stroke incidence over a four-year period, including data from 2006, 2008, 2010, and exit interviews. Purpose in life was measured using an adaptation of Ryff and Keyes’ Scales of Psychological Well-Being.

Key Findings:

  • A higher rating of purpose in life was associated with a reduced likelihood of stroke during the four-year follow-up.
  • Each standard deviation increase in purpose in life was associated with a 22 percent reduced risk of stroke over the follow-up period.
  • These findings held after adjusting for several factors including socio-demographic, behavioral, biological, and psychosocial.

Future studies should consider the ways in which fostering purpose may positively affect interventions that address stroke and other serious diseases.

Health Assets: 
Physical Activity, Purpose in Life
Positive Health Type: