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Purposeful engagement, healthy aging, and the brain

Ryff, C. D., Heller, A. S., Schaefer, S. M., Van Reekum, C. and Davidson, R. J. (2016) Purposeful engagement, healthy aging, and the brain. Current Behavioral Neuroscience Reports, 3 (4). pp. 318-327. ISSN 2196-2979

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s40473-016-0096-z

Abstract/Summary

Purpose of Review Research on psychological well-being in later life has identified strengths and vulnerabilities that occur with aging. We review the conceptual and philosophical foundations of a eudaimonic model of well-being and its empirical translation into six key dimensions of positive functioning. We also consider its implications for health, broadly defined. Recent Findings Numerous findings from national longitudinal samples of US adults are described. They show declining scores on purpose in life and personal growth with aging, but also underscore the notable variability among older persons in these patterns. Recently, health benefits have been identified among older adults who maintain high levels of a particular aspect of well-being, namely, purposeful life engagement. These benefits include extended longevity, reduced risk for various disease outcomes, reduced physiological dysregulation, and gene expression linked to better inflammatory profiles. The brain mechanisms that underlie such outcomes are also examined via a focus on affective style. Adults with higher levels of purpose in life show more rapid recovery from negative stimulus provocation, whereas those with higher well-being overall show sustained activation of reward circuitry in response to positive stimuli, and this pattern is associated with lower diurnal cortisol output. Volumetric findings (right insular gray matter volume) have also been linked with eudaimonic well-being. Summary Eudaimonic well-being predicts better health and longer lives, and thus constitutes an important direction for future research and practice. Intervention studies designed to promote well-being, including among those suffering from psychological disorders, are briefly described.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience
ID Code:67995
Uncontrolled Keywords:Eudaimonic well-being Purpose in life Morbidity Mortality Biological risk factors Neural mechanisms Intervention studies
Publisher:Springer International Publishing

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