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Health Psychol Rev. 2017 Dec;11(4):387-418. doi: 10.1080/17437199.2017.1327325. Epub 2017 May 29.

Meaning in life and physical health: systematic review and meta-analysis.

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a Psychology Department in Wroclaw , SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities , Wroclaw , Poland.
b Department of Psychology , University of Connecticut , Storrs , CT , USA.
c Trauma, Health, and Hazards Center, University of Colorado , Colorado Springs , CO , USA.


This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to clarify the associations between meaning in life and physical health using random-effects models. Conceptualisation of meaning (order in world vs. purpose in life), type of health indicators, participants' health status, and age issues were investigated as moderators. Systematic searches of six databases resulted in inclusion of k = 66 studies (total N = 73,546). Findings indicated that meaning in life and physical health formed weak-to-moderate associations (the overall estimate of the average effect = 0.258). Conceptualisation of meaning, participants' health status, and their age did not moderate these associations. Operationalisation of health moderated the relationship between meaning in life and health. The strongest associations were found for subjective indicators of physical health. Significant albeit weak associations between meaning in life and objective indices of health were found. Furthermore, stronger effects were observed when the measures of meaning combined items referring to meaning in life and meaning-related sense of harmony, peace, and well-being, compared to measures focusing solely on meaning in life. Overall, the results point to the potential role of meaning in life in explaining physical health.


Meaning in life; cancer; health; meta-analysis; purpose in life

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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