Antecedents of purpose in life: Evidence from a lagged exposure-wide analysis
Potential antecedents to having a sense of purpose in life remain understudied. As researchers begin contemplating purpose as a promising target of public health intervention, it is critical to identify its antecedents. Using prospective data from the Nurses' Health Study II (2009-2016; N ranged from 3,905 to 4,189), this study evaluated a wide range of potential antecedents of purpose, including: psychosocial well-being, psychological distress, employment characteristics, lifestyle, and
... l health factors. In separate regression models we regressed purpose in life on each candidate antecedent. In each model, we adjusted for the prior value of purpose, prior values of all exposure variables, and various other covariates simultaneously. Bonferroni correction was used to correct for multiple testing. The results suggested that positive affect and the number of close relatives were each associated with higher purpose (e.g., β=0.14, 95% CI: 0.11, 0.17 for positive affect). Several psychological distress indicators were inversely associated with purpose, including depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, loneliness, and hopelessness (e.g., β=-0.16, 95% CI: -0.19, -0.13 for depressive symptoms). There was also some evidence suggesting that fewer close friends, living alone, and unemployment/retirement were associated with lower purpose. There was, however, little evidence that health behaviors or physical health were associated with subsequent purpose. This study extends the literature by providing longitudinal evidence with rigorous analytic methodologies, and by considering a wide range of potential antecedents of purpose including some that have seldom been examined previously.