Study reveals what people say makes life meaningful

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(KTVX) – What makes life meaningful for people? Is it money or material wealth? Or is it being able to do things like travel or work? A study from the Pew Research Center looks at the things that people living in 17 “advanced economies” say make their lives meaningful.

The study surveyed roughly 19,000 adults in Canada, Belgium, Spain, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, France, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, United Kingdom, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States.

Researchers from the study found that the predominant thing that people said makes life meaningful for them is family. Participants in 14 of the 17 nations responded by saying that families made their lives meaningful more than any other factor.

“Highlighting their relationships with parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren, people frequently mention quality time spent with their kinfolk, the pride they get from the accomplishments of their relatives and even the desire to live a life that leaves an improved world for their offspring,” the report from Pew Research said.

Over half of respondents in the United States said that family was a source for meaning in their life. Jobs were also considered one of the top three sources of meaningfulness in life, according to the Pew study. With family being the top, the second and third were jobs and material well-being.

However, the emphasis on jobs as a source of meaningfulness in life varied from country to country. In Italy, 43% of people surveyed said a job gave their life meaning but in South Korea, only 6% of people said a job was a source of meaningfulness in their life.

The bottom three things that participants said made life meaningful were retirement, faith and religion, and pets.

In the United States, the ranking for what makes life meaningful for people surveyed were, in order: family, friends, material well-being, occupation, and faith. 

American respondents also cited spirituality and faith as a source of meaningfulness in life more than any other nation surveyed. Fifteen percent of Americans cited religion whereas the next highest was New Zealand at 5%. Only in Japan did respondents not find religion and spirituality as a source of meaningfulness at all.

Health was something else respondents said was meaningful in their lives. However, despite the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, respondents were “no more likely to mention COVID-19 than those who do not prioritize health,” according to the study. Still, some respondents said they were appreciative of their health because of the global pandemic.

Age also impacted what some people found meaningful over others in the study. Younger people surveyed tended to focus on friends, education, and hobbies as things that made their life meaningful as opposed to older people who were more apt to mention retirement and health instead.

Men and women were fairly equal with regards to what makes their life meaningful. However, more women than men mentioned family as the factor that makes their life meaningful. Likewise, people with higher levels of education and higher incomes were also more likely to mention family than those with lower levels of education and with lower incomes.

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