Middle-aged people looking for a meaningful life should consider marriage, friends and spend less time alone.
The over-50s are more likely to judge life worth living if they are married and see their friends at least once a week, a study has found.
Spending too much time alone or in front of the television can make your life less meaningful.
This is important because people who see their lives as earnings are more likely to be the biggest gains and less likely to be sick, depressed, obese or poor sleepers.
The over-50s are more likely to judge life worth living if they are married and see their friends at least once a week, a study found
Researchers at University College London questioned more than 7,000 people between the ages of 50 and 90 on how meaningful their lives were.
Those who have judged life more useful have 16% more likely to get married and 13% less likely to live alone.
They were 13% more likely to see friends at least once a week, and more likely to be members of an organization, from church to Neighborhood Watch or a social club.
Research has found those whose lives had a minimum meaning spent almost twice as much time alone during the day – more than six hours on average. They spent 50 minutes more per day watching television.
The principal author, Professor Andrew Steptoe, of the department of behavioral and health sciences, said: “Social engagement is a very important component for living a meaningful life for many people.
“Being a member of an organization can be significant in itself, but it can also provide social contact.
MARRIAGE MAKES YOUR RISK OF DEATH?
Married couples are less likely to die of skin cancer because they identify the warning signs before individuals, a research found last April.
A study of 50,000 American skin cancer patients found that 45% of those who were married had stage 1 tumors, with a survival rate of 98%.
The possibility of contracting the disease so early fell 32% for individual patients, 38% for divorced and a staggering 70% for widowers.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania admitted they were amazed at the sharp difference in diagnosis.
They said the findings should help dermatologists adapt their advice to patients, suggesting screening at an early age for individual patients and inviting partners to make clinical appointments for home screening training.
“Finding meaning when sitting alone is quite difficult, since for most people this is related to their relationships.
“We were impressed by the importance of this feeling of meaning, with people who saw their lives as meaningful, much healthier and more socially engaged”.
The study asked older people to assess how significant their lives were on a scale of zero to 10.
Asking a number of other questions about people’s lives, they found that those who rated their lives more meaningful, with a score of nine or ten, were 10% more likely to be among the highest earnings.
These people were about a third less likely to be depressed, they were less obese and had a fifth more chance of sleeping well or very well at night.
They walked faster, they ate better and were less likely to be disabled or suffer from chronic illnesses.
Experts believe that a sense of meaning can give people the motivation to live healthier, with those who consider life more useful even the 11 percent more likely to exercise.
To achieve that sense of meaning, the results suggest that it is important to spend time with other people.
Those who rated their meaning of life between zero and two spent only five hours and 18 minutes during the average day, compared with two hours and 46 minutes for people who saw their most significant lives.
People were more likely to see their lives as useful if they volunteered, did a cultural activity like visiting a museum or theater at least every few months.
People whose lives were less significant spent four hours and two minutes watching television on an average day, compared to three hours and 17 minutes for those who considered life less useful.
On the results, published in the journal Acts of the National Academy of Sciences, Professor Steptoe said: “There seems to be a virtuous circle, because having a good relationship with others improves the meaning of people, which can therefore lead to more social activities.