ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Acupuncture Eases Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Childhood Dairy Intake Boosts Bone Health Later On
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Low Vitamin D Raises Women's Hip Fracture Risk
CANCER
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Get to Know the Pap Test
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
3 Steps Might Help Stop MRSA's Spread
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
DIABETES
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
Patients' Photos Help Boost Radiologists' Accuracy
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes Updated
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet Helps Protect Aging Brain
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
Arsenic in Drinking Water Raises Diabetes Risk
Skin Woes Take Toll on U.S. Combat Troops
EYE CARE, VISION
'Blind' Man Navigates Obstacle Course Without Error
Eye Test Could Spot Diabetes Vision Trouble Early
Eye Problems, Hearing Loss May Be Linked
FITNESS
Any Exercise Good After a Heart Attack
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
More Single Women Are Having Babies
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Risk Factor for Stroke More Common Among Whites
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Postmenopausal Women With Breast Cancer Face Joint Issues
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
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Have a Goal in Life? You Might Live Longer

TUESDAY, June 16 (HealthDay News) -- If you have a purpose in life -- lofty or not -- you'll live longer, a new study shows.

It doesn't seem to matter much what the purpose is, or whether the purpose involves a goal that's ambitious or modest.

"It can be anything -- from wanting to accomplish a goal in life, to achieving something in a volunteer organization, to as little as reading a series of books," said study author Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center and an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"We found that people who reported a greater level of purpose in life were substantially less likely to die over the follow-up period -- only about half as likely to die over the follow-up period -- as compared to people with a lower level of purpose," Boyle said. The follow-up period averaged nearly three years.

Boyle and her colleagues studied 1,238 older adults already participating in two ongoing research studies at Rush, the Rush Memory and Aging Project and the Minority Aging Research Study. The participants were all dementia-free when the study began and averaged 78 years old.

At the start of the study, the participants answered questions about their purpose in life, rating themselves on different areas meant to measure the tendency to derive meaning from life and to feel that one is working toward goals.

The average score on the sense-of-purpose evaluation was 3.7 of a possible 5, Boyle said.

When comparing scores, Boyle found that those with a higher sense of purpose had about half the risk of dying during the follow-up period as did those with a lower sense of purpose. And that was true, she said, even after controlling for such factors as depressive symptoms, chronic medical conditions and disability.

"What this is saying is, if you find purpose in life, if you find your life is meaningful and if you have goal-directed behavior, you are likely to live longer," she said.

Though much other research has found that having a purpose in life is crucial to maintaining psychological wellness and can be important for physical health as well, Boyle said she believes the new study is one of the first large-scale investigations to examine the link between life purpose and longevity.

The finding follows another recent study, done by others, in which the researchers found that retirees older than 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying during about a four-year follow-up period as did their peers who did not volunteer their time.

What's the link? Boyle can't say for sure. But it could be that having a greater sense of purpose helps multiple systems of the body function better, conferring protection in the face of illness.

The findings make sense to Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. He said he often sees the effects of not having a purpose among older patients. "I see a number of people who have lost that purpose," he said. "Their health declines."

Still, he said, ''it's not clear there is cause and effect" between a sense of purpose and longevity. Perhaps the longevity could be explained by another variable the researchers did not examine, he said.

Boyle said that in future research they hope to find out if people can be inspired to have purpose in life, perhaps by being taught to set goals and work toward them.

SOURCES: Patricia Boyle, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, and assistant professor, behavioral sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Gary Kennedy, M.D., professor, psychiatry and behavioral science, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; June 15, 2009, Psychosomatic Medicine.