A strong life purpose may heighten interest in preventive healthcare services and reduce hospitalization, a study suggests. Pursuing a goal-driven existence is associated with better health, but few researchers have explored the relationship between life purpose and patterns of healthcare use. Eric S. Kim and colleagues studied 7,168 participants from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative and longitudinal study of American adults over the age of 50.
After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, the authors found that each unit increase in purpose on a six-point Likert scale reflected a progressively higher likelihood that participants would obtain a cholesterol test or colonoscopy, but not a preventive flu shot, during the 6-year study. Women with high scores were more likely than others to receive a mammogram/X-ray or Pap smear, whereas men with high scores were more likely than others to receive a prostate exam. The study further revealed that each unit increase in purpose was associated with 17% fewer nights spent in the hospital. According to the authors, the findings may inform strategies to increase the use of preventive health care services and offset the burden of rising health care costs.
Research: Purpose in life and use of preventive health care services, Eric S. Kima, Victor J. Strecherb, and Carol D. Ryff, PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1414826111, published online 3 November 2014.
Source: Eric S. Kim, M.S. Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan