| By Shelley Emling

Do you feel in control of your life and that what you do matters? It could play a role in how long you live.

A study led by researchers at the University College London, published in the journalThe Lancet, monitored the well-being and attitude toward life of more than 9,000 English participants with an average age of 65. Researchers found that those who feltthe most fulfilled were 30 percent less likely to die during the average eight-and-a-half-year follow-up period than those who felt the least fulfilled. Researchers used a questionnaire to measure the participants’ sense of control, sense of purpose, and feelings that what they did was worthwhile. People were split into four categories based on their answers, ranked from highest well-being to lowest well-being.

Over the eight-and-a-half years, 9 percent of those in the highest well-being category had died, compared with 29 percent in the lowest category. Once age, sex, health, smoking, physical activity and other characteristics were factored in, those with the highest well-being were 30 percent less likely to die over the study period, living on average two years longer than those in the lowest well-being group.

Professor Andrew Steptoe, who led the study, said in a release that previous research has linked happiness with a lower risk of death.

“These [latest] analyses show that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people have in their lives are also related to survival,” he said. “We cannot be sure that higher wellbeing necessarily causes lower risk of death, since the relationship may not be causal.

“But the findings raise the intriguing possibility that increasing well-being could help to improve physical health,” he added, noting that further research is needed.

Researchers believe that a sense of purpose may spark hormonal changes that lower blood pressure and stress levels.

Other studies also have uncovered various strategies for possibly extending one’s life. For example, one recent study by Swedish researchers found that simply spending less time sitting everyday can help lengthen a person’s telomeres, which have been linked to longevity. Still another study found an association between volunteerism and longevity.

So what do you think? Got purpose?