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Study: people search for meaning when they approach a new decade in chronological age

Posted December 8, 2014

Quest for the meaning of life probably accompanies our lives all the time. However, it becomes more intense at some time periods. New study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that existential questions are more prominent when new life decade is approaching. “Across six studies  we showed that 9-enders are particularly preoccupied with aging and meaningfulness, which is linked to a rise in behaviors that suggest a search for or crisis of meaning,” the authors of the study report.

Picture: The Reader. Credit: #tom #malavoda via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Picture: The Reader. Credit: #tom #malavoda via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

“In the English-speaking world, for example, people describe these periods as “the twenties,” “the thirties,” “the forties,” and so on, which implies that human aging progresses through discrete 10-year epochs. Because the imminent approach of a new decade signals  the end of one era and the beginning of another, we examine how adults respond when they enter the final year of a chronological decade,” the American researchers say.

Adam L. Alter working at the New York University and Hal E. Hershfield working at the University of California carried out six different studies exploring this fascinating question. Firstly, they investigated whether individuals whose age ends with the number 9 are more inclined to pose questions connected with the purpose of their life. Secondly, it was explored, whether numbers of behaviors seeking spiritual fulfilment increase in that life period.

“We examined data from 42,063 adults who completed the World Values Survey, a large-scale survey administered to participants from more than 100 countries between 2010 and 2014,” the scholars write. They discovered that a number of existential dilemmas reached its peak when the people were 29, 39, 49 or 59 years old.

Alter and Hershfield supplemented the survey results with other data sources. For instance, they revealed that people of this age are the most likely to run in a marathon for the first time. “Of the 500 runners, 74 were 9-enders, an overrepresentation of 48%. In contrast, there were between 32 runners (3-enders) and 59 runners (7-enders) whose ages ended in the remaining digits, suggesting that 9-enders were significantly overrepresented,” the scientists claim.

They also found out that professional marathon runners achieve better results when their age gets closer to the round number. This finding suggests that coming of thirties or forties motivates them and forces to train harder.

Article: Alter A. L. and Hershfield H.E., 2014, People search for meaning when they approach a new decade in chronological age, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Source link.

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