What's your purpose in life?
Knowing the answer to that question could help to protect your brain, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center found that people who have a "greater purpose" in life are also more likely to have slower rates of mental decline, even as plaques and tangles developed in their brains. Plaques and tangles form in the brains of people as they age, affecting their memory, and have also been linked with Alzheimer's disease.
"This is encouraging and suggests that engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities promotes cognitive health in old age," study researcher Patricia A. Boyle, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Boyle and her colleagues conducted the study with 246 people who were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project; they underwent cognitive and neurological testing once a year for 10 years. They also were questioned about their life experiences and purposes in life. None of the study participants had dementia, and they all went on to die and undergo brain autopsies.
The research is published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
This isn't the first time researchers have linked having a purpose in life with more positive health outcomes. A 2009 article in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine showed that having a purpose in life is linked with longevity, e! Science News reported. And last year, TIME reported on a study also published in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggesting that life fulfillment is linked with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.