Background Having a sense of purpose in life has been consistently demonstrated as a predictor of positive health outcomes, including less perceived stress, yet, little is known about the role of sense of purpose on stressful days. Purpose The current study investigated the sense of purpose as a moderator of stressor-related changes in daily physical symptoms, positive affect, and negative affect. Methods A subset of the Midlife in the United States study (n = 1949, m age : 56.4 years) reported their sense of purpose, along with up to eight daily assessments of stressors, affect, and physical symptoms. Multilevel models evaluated whether sense of purpose was associated with deviations in affect or physical symptom reporting on days when participants reported a stressor versus days when stressors did not occur. Results Sense of purpose was associated with higher daily positive affect, lower daily negative affect, and fewer daily physical symptoms. Compared with individuals who reported lower levels of purpose, those reporting higher levels encountered the same number of daily stressors, yet showed less of an increase in negative affect and physical symptoms on stressor days than on stressor-free days. Purpose did not predict changes in positive affect in response to daily stressors. Conclusions Findings provide evidence that a purposeful life may be characterized by lower negative affect and physical symptom reporting on stressful days.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health