What’s Your Purpose? Finding a Sense of Meaning in Life is Linked to Health

Having a purpose in life, whether building guitars or swimming or volunteer work, affects your health, researchers found. It even appeared to be more important for decreasing risk of death than exercising regularly.
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Having a purpose in life may decrease your risk of dying early, according to a study published Friday.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 7,000 American adults between the ages of 51 and 61 who filled out psychological questionnaires on the relationship between mortality and life purpose.

What they found shocked them, according to Celeste Leigh Pearce, one of the authors of the study published in JAMA Current Open.

People who didn’t have a strong life purpose — which was defined as “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals” — were more likely to die than those who did, and specifically more likely to die of cardiovascular diseases.

“I approached this with a very skeptical eye,” says Pearce, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan. “I just find it so convincing that I’m developing a whole research program around it.”

People without a strong life purpose were more than twice as likely to die between the study years of 2006 and 2010, compared with those who had one.

This association between a low level of purpose in life and death remained true despite how rich or poor participants were, and regardless of gender, race, or education level. The researchers also found the association to be so powerful that having a life purpose appeared to be more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking or exercising regularly.

“Just like people have basic physical needs, like to sleep and eat and drink, they have basic psychological needs,” says Alan Rozanski, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who was not involved in this research but has studied the relationship between life purpose and physical health.

“The need for meaning and purpose is No. 1,” Rozanski adds. “It’s the deepest driver of well-being there is.”

The new study adds to a small but growing body of literature on the relationship between life purpose and physical health. Rozanski published a 2016 paper in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, for example, that used data from 10 studies to show that strong life purpose was associated with reduced risk of mortality and cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks or stroke.

Study authors for the new JAMA Current Open study pulled data from a large survey of older American adults called the Health and Retirement Study. Participants were asked a variety of questions on topics such as finances, physical health and family life.

A subset of participants filled out psychological questionnaires, including a survey called the Psychological Wellbeing Scale, in 2006. This includes questions designed to understand how strong a person’s sense of life purpose is. For example, it asks them to rate their responses to questions like, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”

The study authors used people’s answers to these questions to quantify how powerful their degree of life purpose was. The researchers then compared that information to data on participants’ physical health up until 2010, including whether or not participants died and what they died from.

The survey didn’t ask participants to define how they find meaning in life. What matters, according to the researchers, is not exactly what a person’s life purpose is, but that they have one.

“For some, it might be raising children. For others, it might be doing volunteer work,” Pearce says. “Where your life fulfillment comes from can be very individual.”

The study’s lead author, Aliya Alimujiang, who is a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Michigan, says she got involved in the project because of a personal interest in mindfulness and wellness.

Before she started graduate school, Alimujiang worked as a volunteer in a breast cancer clinic and says she was struck by how the patients who could articulate how they found meaning in life seemed to do better.

That experience helped her define part of her own life purpose: researching the phenomenon.

“I had a really close relationship with the breast cancer patients. I saw the fear and anxiety and depression they had,” Alimujiang says. “That helped me to apply for [graduate] school. That’s how I started my career.”

Pearce says that while the link between life purpose and physical well-being seems strong, more research is needed to explore the physiological connection between the two, like whether having a low life purpose is connected to high levels of stress hormones. She also hopes to study public health strategies — like types of therapy or educational tools — that might help people develop a strong sense of their life’s work.

“What I’m really struck by is the strength of our findings, as well as the consistency in the literature overall,” Pearce says. “It seems quite convincing.”

Article retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/25/726695968/whats-your-purpose-finding-a-sense-of-meaning-in-life-is-linked-to-health?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery


Corporate America Urged To Increase Disability Hiring

Wilson Yu — one of scores of people who have found work with Amazon through an arrangement with a disability service provider — fills an Amazon Prime order at a warehouse in Seattle. This week, several big investors joined together to encourage companies to increase employment of people with disabilities. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times/TNS)

A group of investors with over $1 trillion in assets is looking to use its clout to pressure companies into hiring more people with disabilities.

With a joint statement issued this week, the group led by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read is urging businesses they’re invested in to take a series of steps to better include those with disabilities.

“As investors representing over $1 trillion in assets under management, we believe companies must do more to include people with disabilities in the workforce,” reads the statement. “We want our portfolio companies to create sustainable, long-term value; this requires a workforce with a wide range of viewpoints, skills, abilities and experiences.”

Specifically, the investors want to see companies adopt several “best practices” including creating a disability hiring goal and measuring progress toward that goal, having a senior executive release a public statement of support for a resource group supporting employees with disabilities and adding disability representation to their diversity and inclusion statement.

The joint statement is also signed by the New York City comptroller, the Illinois treasurer, the California State Teachers Retirement System and asset manager Voya Financial.

“Companies that embrace disability inclusion in the workplace benefit from increased innovation as well as profitability,” said Read, the Oregon treasurer. “We are asking the companies we invest in to adopt policies to improve the representation of people with disabilities in their workforce and continue to identify opportunities for improvement.”

Ted Kennedy, Jr., board chair at the American Association of People with Disabilities, called the investors’ statement a “key turning point.”

“This new, concerted focus on corporate and shareholder engagement and accountability catapults the issue of disability inclusion,” he said. “Citizens, employees and shareholders will now be watching how companies respond to this new challenge and which corporations authentically support our goal of economic independence and workforce participation of millions of Americans with disabilities.”

Article Retrieved From: https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2019/05/24/corporate-america-urged-disability-hiring/26673/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery









How to Start (and Continue!) a Conversation About Mental Health


You don’t need special training to have an open, authentic conversation about mental health – and often, just talking about it can be the first important step in understanding where someone is with their mental health, and helping them get support or treatment if needed.

Here are some quick pointers you can use for having a #RealConvo with the people in your life.

Let people know you’re willing to talk about #MentalHealth.

The easiest way to let people know you’re willing to talk about mental health is to be open about your own. Try to think of it in the same way you think about your physical health. Allow it to come up naturally in conversation in the same way.

If you’ve seen a mental health professional in the past, when the subject comes up, you might say, in your own words:

“I’ve had times in my life when I’ve struggled. I went to talk to someone, and it really helped me.”

A casual reference like the one above can have a powerful effect, letting others know you’re a safe person to talk to if they ever need to reach out.

What can you say to someone you think may be struggling?

Trust your gut if you think someone’s having a hard time, and speak to them privately. Start with an expression of care, followed by an observation.

“I care about you and I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. You seem more frustrated than you’ve been in a while, and I’m wondering how you’re doing.”

Normalize mental health by talking about it directly.

“I wonder if what’s happening at work these days is stressing you out.”

“With everything that’s going on in your family, I wonder if you’re feeling overwhelmed.”

Let them know you get it, and that it’s okay – and normal – to struggle in response to life’s challenges.

“I’ve been through things in my life, too, and what I’ve often found is that talking about it helps. Whatever it is, I’m here to listen and support you.”

The timing doesn’t have to be perfect

You may not always be able to speak with someone the moment you notice they might be struggling. It’s fine to circle back some other time soon.

“The other day I noticed you seemed upset. I made a note that I wanted to talk with you. I’m really concerned about how you’re doing. So let’s talk.”

Sometimes creating some space is the perfect thing to do. Let them know you can have the conversation at a time that’s right for them.

“Can we grab some coffee and talk about it?”

“Would you like to go for a walk?”

What if they hesitate?

The other person might worry that sharing how they feel will be a burden to others. They might say something like, “You must be sick of hearing about all of this,” or, “I don’t want to saddle you with my problems.”

In your own words, tell them:

“Not only am I not sick of it, but I care about you, so I want to be there for you. I get that life is complex – so I’m here to listen and support you.”

Would they be more comfortable talking to someone else?

If you suspect the other person might be more comfortable talking with someone else, you can offer to help connect them.

“Is talking to me about this helping you right now? Or is there someone else you’d feel more comfortable with, who we can bring in to help support you?”

What if they tell you they really are having a hard time?

Reassure them that it’s okay to talk about.

“You know what? Everyone goes through periods in their life when they’re struggling. But just because you’re struggling now doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this way.”

Then ask for more detail, and let them know they can go to that dark place with you.

“What’s the worst thing about what you’re going through right now?”

And make sure to include that getting help from a mental health professional can truly make a big difference in their situation.

Click here for guidance on how to lead the conversation and respond.

When the convo’s winding down…

End the conversation by reiterating that you are so glad for the chance to connect on this deeper level about such meaningful things in life. Remind them that we all have challenges at times, and that you’ll continue to be there for them.

Nicely done! You’ve had a #RealConvo about Mental Health! How do you follow up?

Give yourself a pat on the back for having a #RealConvo with someone!

But don’t just leave it at that. Follow up to let them know it was okay to open up, that you care, and that you’re still a “safe” person to talk to about mental health.

“You know, you’ve been on my mind since we had that conversation the other day.”

“I’ve really been thinking about what we talked about, and I want to circle back. How’re you feeling since we spoke?”

Being available to have a #RealConvo about mental health is an important way we can all be there for the people in our lives, whether it’s a friend, family member, or someone in your community. All it takes is a willingness to be open, honest and present with the people you care about.

We all have mental health. Reach out and have a #RealConvo with someone in your life today.

Check out (and share) our other AFSP #RealConvo Guides:

If Someone Tells You They’re Thinking About Suicide: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP

Reaching Out for Help: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP

How to Talk to a Suicide Loss Survivor: A #RealConvo Guide from AFSP


Like what you’re reading? Go to our Sharing Your Story page, where you’ll find resources for sharing your own story, including story ideas, blog submission guidelines, tips for sharing your story safely and creative exercises to help you get started, and assignments for upcoming topics.

Write a blog post for AFSP! Click here for our Submission Guidelines.

Article Retrieved From: American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, https://afsp.org/how-to-start-and-continue-a-conversation-about-mental-health-a-realconvo-guide-from-afsp/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Workplace Resources for Mental Health



The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 8 of 10 workers with a mental illness condition report shame and stigma which prevents them from getting treatment. In 2017, 20.8% of SSDI beneficiaries had a mental illness (U.S. Social Security 2018 Annual Statistical Supplement). The following links are workplace resources to help employ and accommodate individuals with this disability.

Federal Resources

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):  NIMH is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. This link offers helpful and basic information on mental disorders, a range of related topics, and the latest developments on mental health research.

Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC):  A Q&A Document developed by the EEOC titled Depression, PTSD, and Other Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace: Your Legal Rights.

Federal Resources from SAMHSA – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. SAMHSA leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

ODEP Funded Resources

EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit: Resources for Fostering a Mentally Healthy Workplace: This toolkit from the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) provides background, tools and resources that can help employers learn more about mental health issues.

JAN Resources on Mental Health: A toolkit developed by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) to support employers on accommodation resources available on mental health impairments.

University Resources

Boston University Repository of Employment & Vocational Recovery Resources: These online resources developed by the University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation provide targeted resources to support employers, potential and current workers, providers, and family members.

Family Guide to Employment: Resource titled “Let’s Talk Employment: A Family Guide to Employment”, published by Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, provides a narrative and 15 major topics of interest to explore related to employment.

WorkforceGPS Resources

Understanding PTSD – WorkforceGPS resource to help overcome misconceptions about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and to help promote promising partnering strategies with American Job Centers.

Mental Health Awareness Month 30 Second Training Series– Workforce GPS 30-Second Training on Mental Health is designed to increase awareness about mental health issues


Vehlow, Jon, 2019, May 6, Workplace Resources for Mental Health, Retrieved From: https://disability.workforcegps.org/resources/2017/12/10/01/33/Mental_Health_Workplace_Accommodations?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

U.S. Department of Labor Announces Funding Opportunity for New Center for Employer-Focused Disability Policy and Technical Assistance

A magnificent sunset at Golden Gardens Park, Seattle, Washington


WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the availability of approximately $2 million in funds for the first year of a cooperative agreement for an employer-focused disability policy development and technical assistance center. The solicitation is a re-competition of an existing cooperative agreement. The deadline to apply is June 24, 2019. Administered by the Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the funding opportunity anticipates the availability of approximately $8 million in funds for a 4-year budget period (subject to the availability of federal funds at $2 million per year). Seeking to build upon the prior work of ODEP’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), the new center will conduct research; engage with the business community; identify effective policies and practices that support business needs; and provide resources, technical assistance, and training to help public- and private-sector employers (including federal contractors) recruit, hire, retain, and advance individuals with disabilities. “America’s workforce is stronger when all Americans participate,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, Jennifer Sheehy. “Understanding effective policies and practices benefits employers as people with disabilities bring their skills and talents to the workplace.” The full announcement will be available at www.grants.gov. Visit ODEP’s website for more information. Direct link on grants.gov: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=315140 Agency Office of Disability Employment Policy Date April 22, 2019. Release Number 19-0507-NAT Contact Bennett Gamble Phone Number (202) 693-4667 Email Gamble.Bennett@dol.gov

The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) is a resource for employers seeking to recruit, hire, retain and advance qualified employees with disabilities. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy under a cooperative agreement with The Viscardi Center. For more information, visit AskEARN.org Preparation of this material was funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant No. [OD-26451-14-75-4-36]. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.