ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
CANCER
More Cancer Tests Mean More False-Positive Results
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
CAREGIVING
Caregiving May Lengthen Life
Organ Donation Policies Vary Among Children's Hospitals
Late-Life Fatherhood May Lower Child's Intelligence
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Night Shift Work Hard on the Heart
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Care Helps Control Type 2 Diabetes and Its Complications
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
DIABETES
Strict Blood Sugar Lowering Won't Ease Diabetes Heart Risk
Exercise Protects Black Women From Type 2 Diabetes
Insulin Resistance Tied to Peripheral Artery Disease
DIET, NUTRITION
Fruit Even Healthier Than Thought: Study Shows
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
Eating Vegan or Raw-Vegan at Regular Restaurants
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fish in U.S. Rivers Tainted With Common Medications
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
Pregnant Rural Women More at Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
FITNESS
Early Exercise Boosts Outcomes for ICU Patients
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
More Whole Grains May Mean Less Fat
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Walk Long, Slow and Often to Help the Heart
Ginkgo Won't Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Elderly
Omega-6 Fatty Acids Can Be Good for You
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Frequent Feedings May Be Making Babies Fat
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
MENTAL HEALTH
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Meditation May Boost College Students' Learning
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Money May Matter, Health-Wise, in Old Age
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Therapies for Menopause
Exercise Boosts Bone Density in Breast-Feeding Moms
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
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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.