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Firmness of purpose in life significantly influences emotional state and autonomic nervous activity

Author(s): Riichiro Ishida | Tsueko Abe | Masahiko Okada

Journal: Health
ISSN 1949-4998

Volume: 03;
Issue: 08;
Start page: 507;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Purpose in Life | Psychological Stress | Anxiety | Sympathetic Nervous Activity | Longevity

The present study was performed to clarify the influence of having a firm purpose in life (PIL) on psychological and physical stresses. Participants were 59 subjects (19 males and 40 fe- males) with a mean age of 30.9 years (standard deviation, 12.1; range, 18 - 68 years). We used a mental arithmetic (MA) test as a goaloriented stressor; the test was supposed to be finished before a time limit expired without using pencil and paper. We used a PIL test to assess the intensity of personal meaning in one’s life, an interest in mental arithmetic test (IMAT) to assess the intensity of interest in the MA test, and an anxiety inventory (AI) to assess the anxiety level of before and during the MA test. Heart rate (HR), systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and nose tip temperature (NTT) were recorded before and after MA. We used logistic regression modeling to estimate the odds ratio (OR) of independent variables of age, sex, PIL test score, AI score, HR, SBP, DBP, and NTT before the MA test. Multivariate-adjusted models showed that PIL test scores prior to the MA test significantly predicted the observed changes in AI score and HR. Other variables were not significant predictors. In conclusion, we found that a firm PIL decreased anxiety under psychological stress as measured with the MA test, even with objective evaluation by others. Having a firm PIL also lowered the response of the sympathetic nervous system to psych0logical stress.
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