Meaning in Life and Health: Proactive Health Orientation Links Meaning in Life to Health Variables Among American Undergraduates

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Mounting research has demonstrated relationships between meaning in life (MIL) and a wide range of health–relevant outcomes, including health symptoms, healthpromoting behaviors, health–risking behaviors, cognitive decline, and mortality. Despite these provocative results, there have been few efforts to explain why meaning and health should be linked. It is proposed that meaning supports a more positive health orientation among people, which in turn is related to more positive health behaviors and health. This model was tested using structural path analysis in a healthy, but health–risk–prone, sample of 571 undergraduate students, focusing on health criterion variables of health symptoms, attitudes toward condom use, and substance abuse. Two aspects of health orientation, proactive health orientation and health information discounting, were assessed. Direct relationships were observed between MIL and health criterion variables, as well as indirect relationships carried by combinations of both health orientations. In a generally healthy, health–risk–prone sample, MIL was beneficially related to health symptoms, risky condom attitudes, and substance use. Proactive health orientation and health information discounting statistically explained some of these relationships, suggesting new avenues for intervening to promote healthy lifestyle factors and prevent adverse health outcomes.