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Creating and maintaining purpose in life in old age: A meta-analysis

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Abstract

Purpose in life is a defining feature of mental health. In old age, maintaining high levels of purpose in life may become more difficult, due to increasing losses (e.g., widowhood, retirement). Meta-analysis was used to synthesize findings from 70 studies on purpose in life in middle age and old age. We found a small age-associated decline of purpose in life, which was stronger in older age-groups. Purpose in life showed a strong association with social integration, and with relational quality in particular. In addition, high purpose in life was related to better health, higher everyday competence, higher socioeconomic status, being employed, and being married. Furthermore, strong associations with psychological well-being and low levels of depressive symptoms were found. We conclude that relying on sources that have low or even no age-associated decline, such as social integration and previous attainments, counteract strong declines of purpose in life in old age.

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Correspondence to Martin Pinquart.

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Martin Pinquart, Dr. habil., is an associate professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Jena (Germany). His research interests include subjective wellbeing in old age, planning and goals in later life, coping with cancer, intergenerational relations.

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Pinquart, M. Creating and maintaining purpose in life in old age: A meta-analysis. Ageing Int. 27, 90–114 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12126-002-1004-2

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