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Sense of Purpose in Life and Cardiovascular Disease: Underlying Mechanisms and Future Directions

  • Psychological Aspects of Cardiovascular Diseases (A Steptoe, Section Editor)
  • Published:
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Abstract

Purpose of Review

In this review, we synthesize recent research that has reported associations of a higher sense of purpose in life with reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), and then explore mechanisms that might underlie these associations.

Recent Findings

Accumulating observational and experimental evidence suggests that having a higher sense of purpose might influence CVD risk through three pathways: (1) enhancement of other psychological and social resources that buffer against the cardiotoxic effects of overwhelming stress; (2) indirect effects through health behaviors; and (3) direct effects on biological pathways.

Summary

A sense of purpose in life is emerging as an independent risk factor for incident CVD. A key remaining question is whether purpose causally effects CVD risk; in the “Future Research Directions” section, we focus on work needed to establish causality and provide suggestions for next steps.

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Funding

This work was supported by grants from the NIH (NIA K99AG055696, and NHBLI T32HL098048).

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Correspondence to Eric S. Kim.

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Eric S. Kim has worked as a consultant with AARP and UnitedHealth Group.

Scott W. Delaney and Laura D. Kubzansky declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Kim, E.S., Delaney, S.W. & Kubzansky, L.D. Sense of Purpose in Life and Cardiovascular Disease: Underlying Mechanisms and Future Directions. Curr Cardiol Rep 21, 135 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11886-019-1222-9

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