For some people who are undergoing depression and anxiety, their devastating symptoms make it difficult to keep their jobs. Unluckily, job loss only worsens their mental well-being.

Having zero income not only distresses their bank accounts, but it also causes their overall welfare to fall. For most of these people, not having a job implies not having a purpose.

Obviously, the absence of purpose goes beyond unemployment. Many employed people feel like they’re just passing time–rather than living life to its fullest. And studies show that not having a purpose influences not only the value of your life–but perhaps even its span.

What Research Says

In one report, researchers studied more than 6,000 individuals to measure their sense of purpose. Participants were asked to answer to statements like, “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.” Researchers followed up with participants 14 years later. They learned that individuals who detailed a bigger sense of purpose lived longer than their peers.

Folks who considered like their lives had importance had a 15% lower chance of death in a 14-year period, in contrast to those who expressed they felt purposeless. And perhaps the best news is researchers found it didn’t matter when people found their purpose.

Whether a person discovered their true purpose was to be a painter at age 70, or someone had known since age 20 that their reason was to be a philanthropist, their risk of death lessened. Even when researchers controlled for other aspects that have an effect on long life, like age, emotional well-being, and gender, a sense of purpose proved influential.

The Connection between Purpose and Longevity

Scientists believe that a sense of purpose enhances physical and mental health in numerous ways. For starters, optimistic well-being is related to reduced cortisol production, which plays a role in brain function and immune regulation. Feeling good could lessen disease and other health illnesses.

Feeling better about life can alter a person’s performance. People who have a sense of purpose are commonly encouraged to care for themselves. They’re more likely to exercise and eat healthy, which is likely to prolong their lives.

A greater sense of purpose can also offer a defense against stress. Taking part in something significant, whether it’s music or caring for children, presents an increase in happiness. And happiness fights the adverse consequences of stress.

Key Takeaways from This Research

Ensure who you are doesn’t rest completely on what you do. Otherwise, in the absence of work—be it retirement or disability–your life will lack meaning.

A sense of purpose doesn’t have to be complex or world-changing. Instead, your purpose could include loving your family or sharing your joy.

For others, a sense of purpose could entail raising money for a charity or chasing a dream. It all depends on what gives your life true meaning.

Ask yourself, “What gets me out of bed in the morning?” Other than earning money, what is the real purpose you do what you do? If you struggle to come up with an answer, you may want to think about your life’s actual purpose.