The Gist

A recent study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people with a greater sense of purpose engage in healthier habits, like eating vegetables, engaging in physical activity, prioritizing sleep, and even flossing. When compared to participant's Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism), researchers found that having a greater sense of purpose outshines when it comes to making healthier decisions.

Having Purpose Makes You Healthier

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You know that friend that tends to always make healthier decisions than you? The one who eats vegetables, goes to the gym religiously and even flosses regularly? They are probably doing so because they have a greater sense of purpose.

A recent study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology, found that people who make these healthier lifestyle choices and feel good about their overall health status have a sense of purpose in life.

“Our analysis found that participants’ sense of purpose was positively associated with their reports of both vigorous and moderate activity, vegetable intake, flossing, and sleep quality,” says the study’s lead author Patrick Hill, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University at St. Louis.

The study itself has been ongoing for decades, first surveying participants when they were in elementary school. The 749 participants were then surveyed every two years until they reached an average age of 60.

“Participants reporting a higher sense of purpose also reported a greater likelihood to enact all health behaviors of interest and higher self-rated health,” Hill says. “Overall, these findings point to the importance of considering healthy lifestyle habits as a prominent explanation for why purposeful individuals experience better health outcomes.”

During the study, the researchers also took the Big Five personality traits into account -- openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. While more research is required, they found that having a greater sense of purpose outshone these traits, still making those participants more likely to make healthier decisions.

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