No More Mr. Lonely: How Sense of Purpose Protects Against Loneliness in Older Adults

Originally featured July 19, 2023 on Mather Institute
By Ajla Basic

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have found evidence that, for older adults, having a sense of purpose in life can act as a barrier against loneliness and its detrimental effects. This is especially relevant when the effects of loneliness are consistently circulating throughout the world, with the U.S. Surgeon General declaring it an epidemic in May 2023. Researchers believe this study helps further the understanding of protective features against loneliness, such as purposefulness, and how that factor might interact with other protective features like social support. In this study, sense of purpose is a perception that you have a guiding direction in life. 

The researchers used a sample of 2,312 Swiss older adults who had completed measures on sense of purpose, loneliness, received support and provided support. The researchers ran analyses to assess the associations between these various measures and found sense of purpose to be related to social support and linked to lower levels of loneliness. Researchers believe the association between sense of purpose and social support is not surprising, because many activities that provide sense of purpose involve other individuals, which invokes that social support. 

Researchers believe these nuanced results indicate a clear need for interventions against loneliness to be thoughtfully curated with social activity (i.e., invoking that social support protective feature) and a sense of purpose.


Continued on Mather Institute. Read the full article here.