Meaning and Health: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

The research base linking meaning with physical health is significantly underdeveloped in comparison to that linking subjective well-being and physical health. We address this deficit by first providing an overview of the study of meaning, and then examining evidence of its positive relationship to physical health in a systematic review of relevant literature. We searched PsycINFO and PubMed databases for studies of varying design and populations, excluding studies that did not have clear measures of meaning and physical health and/or did not address their relationship. Overall, higher levels of meaning are clearly associated with better physical health, as well as with behavioral factors that decrease the probability of negative health outcomes or increase that of positive health outcomes. Methodological challenges and future directions are discussed.