The sense that one is living a meaningful life may be important to our health. Meaning in life is a complex construct, including a sense of coherence (the feeling that life makes sense), purpose (having goals and a direction in life), and significance (the sense that one’s life has inherent value and is worth living).
Our work centres on exploring how peoples’ sense of meaning in these areas is correlated with a range of health and wellbeing indicators, including mental health, social cohesion and biological data (e.g. biomarkers of inflammation). We are looking at this from a longitudinal, statistical perspective using data from cohort studies and exploring associations with health (e.g. chronic diseases, chronic pain, disability, self-rated health), emotional wellbeing (e.g. depressive symptoms, sleep), physical activity, social factors (e.g. close relationships, friends, organizational membership, volunteering, cultural engagement), and economic factors (wealth, income). We are also isolating the relationship between meaning and health outcomes from factors such as age, gender, education and social class.
In an earlier part of this programme of work, we also studied the impact of a course – “Exploring What Matters”, a local community intervention – on the wellbeing and pro-sociality of the participants