An American study carried out by the University of Michigan’s Psychology Department’s PhD student Eric S. Kim and colleagues has found that having a strong life purpose, or goal, may heighten interest in preventative healthcare services and reduce hospitalisation.
The research, which examined 7,168 people from the Health and Retirement Study (a nationally representative study of US adults over 50) over six years, found specifically that pursuing a goal-driven existence is associated with better health because people are more likely to seek out preventative health care.
Women who had higher scores of “life purpose” 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.
After adjusting the study for sociodemographic factors, the researchers found that each unit increase in purpose on a six-point scale reflected a progressively higher likelihood that participants would obtain a cholesterol test or colonoscopy, but not a preventive flu shot.
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 in the US.