Evaluating eight-year trajectories for sense of purpose in the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleEvaluating eight-year trajectories for sense of purpose in the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsHill, PL, Weston, SJ
JournalAging & Mental Health
ISSN Number1364-6915
KeywordsHealth Conditions and Status, Purpose in life, Well-being

OBJECTIVES: Though cross-sectional research has suggested that sense of purpose declines into older adulthood, it remains unclear whether inter-individual variability occurs in these trajectories, and what factors predict these trajectories. The current study provides one of the first longitudinal investigations into how individuals' sense of purpose fluctuates in older adulthood.

METHOD: Participants from the Health and Retirement Study (n = 4,234, mean age = 65 years), completed assessments of sense of purpose over three years, along with multiple potential predictors (health, personality, demographics) at the start.

RESULTS: Second-order latent growth models demonstrated both mean-level declines on purpose over time, as well as the capacity for inter-individual variability in change patterns for retired adults. Among this cohort, health status, educational attainment, and marital status were significant predictors of purpose trajectories over time, though broad personality trait dimensions failed to uniquely predict change in sense of purpose. However, measurement invariance tests suggest that the scale did not operate similarly across work status groups.

CONCLUSION: Findings advance the previous literature by demonstrating inter-individual variability in sense of purpose for those participants who had retired. Future research should consider that purpose inventories may operate differently for those in the workplace versus retired adults.

User Guide Notes


Alternate JournalAging Ment Health
Citation Key9466
PubMed ID29212348
Grant ListU01 AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States