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If you’re looking for a way to keep dementia at bay, Rush University Medical Center (Illinois, USA) researchers suggest you consider developing a firm purpose in life —a tendency to find meaning from life experience, to be intentional and focused.

Patricia Boyle and colleagues looked at data ascertained from a short psychological test given to 246 older people who later died and underwent autopsies that explored the state of their brains. Among those subjects whose brains had more plaques and tangles, those who displayed a greater purpose in life appeared to be less affected by a decline in their mental capacities. The rate of cognitive decline was about 30 percent slower for someone with greater purpose in life, compared to someone with less purpose, and the team was able to link a higher sense of purpose to better brain health even when they adjusted their statistics for confounding factors. The study authors conclude that: “Higher levels of purpose in life reduce the deleterious effects of [Alzheimer’s Disease] pathologic changes on cognition in advanced age.”


  1. Patricia A. Boyle; Aron S. Buchman; Robert S. Wilson; Lei Yu; Julie A. Schneider; David A. Bennett. “Effect of Purpose in Life on the Relation Between Alzheimer Disease Pathologic Changes on Cognitive Function in Advanced Age.” Arch Gen Psychiatry, May 2012; 69: 499–504.