The sense that one is living a worthwhile and meaningful life is fundamental to human flourishing and subjective well-being. Here, we investigate the wider implications of feeling that the things one does in life are worthwhile with a sample of 7,304 men and women aged 50 and older (mean 67.2 y). We show that independently of age, sex, educational attainment, and socioeconomic status, higher worthwhile ratings are associated with stronger personal relationships (marriage/partnership, contact with friends), broader social engagement (involvement in civic society, cultural activity, volunteering), less loneliness, greater prosperity (wealth, income), better mental and physical health (self-rated health, depressive symptoms, chronic disease), less chronic pain, less disability, greater upper body strength, faster walking, less obesity and central adiposity, more favorable biomarker profiles (C-reactive protein, plasma fibrinogen, white blood cell count, vitamin D, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), healthier lifestyles (physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, sleep quality, not smoking), more time spent in social activities and exercising, and less time spent alone or watching television. Longitudinally over a 4-y period, worthwhile ratings predict positive changes in social, economic, health, and behavioral outcomes independently of baseline levels. Sensitivity analyses indicate that these associations are not driven by factors such as prosperity or depressive symptoms, or by outcome levels before the measurement of worthwhile ratings. The feeling that life is filled with worthwhile activities may promote healthy aging and help sustain meaningful social relationships and optimal use of time at older ages.
Research Professor. Director at Learning Change Project – Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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