Research suggests that people who have meaning and purpose in their life have lower risk of Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment in later life.

Greater purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

  •  900 community-dwelling older persons without dementia from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, Chicago.
  • Participants underwent baseline evaluations of purpose in life and up to 7 years of detailed annual follow-up clinical evaluations to document incident AD, MCI and cognitive decline.


  • Persons with a greater purpose and sense of meaning in life were much less likely than someone with less, at baseline, to develop
    • AD (half the risk),
    • MCI (30% lower risk), or
    • cognitive decline
  • Those scoring in the 90% percentile in the measure of purpose and meaning were 2.4 time LESS likely to develop AD than someone in the lowest 10% percentile.
  • These results remained the same controlling for age, sex, education, race, income, depressive symptoms, neuroticism, social network size, and number of chronic medical conditions
  • PA. Boyle & DA Bennett, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010


Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, Aron S. Buchman, MD, Lisa L. Barnes, PhD, and David A. Bennett, MD  Effect of a Purpose in Life on Risk of Incident Alzheimer Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment in Community-Dwelling Older Persons

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010 March; 67(3): 304–310.

doi:  10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.208 PMCID: PMC2897172


Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center (Drs Boyle, Buchman, Barnes, and Bennett) and Departments of Behavioral Sciences (Drs Boyle and Barnes) and Neurological Sciences (Drs Buchman, Barnes, and Bennett), Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois

Correspondence: Patricia Boyle, PhD, Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, 600 S Paulina, Ste 1020B, Chicago, IL 60612 (Email:

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