For Eric S. Kim, a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan, the inspiration for studying the impact of having a meaningful purpose was his grandparents. They ran an orphanage on the border of North and South Korea after the Korean War, which he says kept them active and accounted for their good health. After they retired, their health deteriorated. "They stopped running around every day," he says. He suspects that having a purpose -- taking care of children -- motivated them to live a healthier life. His research bears that out. A study he coauthored in the 2013 Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that, among those ages 50 and older, having a meaningful purpose in life was associated with a reduced risk of strokes. "Intuitively, it seems that if they want to keep accomplishing their purpose, they want to remain healthy" and will continue engaging in healthy behaviors, Kim says.

Kim's research represents a growing body of evidence demonstrating the value of having a purpose, and a new model of providing incentives for living life in a more positive, optimistic way that brings both emotional and physical benefits. These results are particularly significant for caregivers, who often neglect their own health while focusing attention on others.


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