Researchers have an unconventional idea for reducing medical costs in the U.S.: Give more Americans a sense of purpose.

You see, people who believe their lives have purpose are motivated to optimize their health. That means they’re more likely than other folks to take advantage of preventive health services, like cancer screenings. And people who take advantage of preventive healthcare save the medical system big bucks.

Americans spent about $2.8 trillion on healthcare in 2012, according to the most recent tally by the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of senior citizens will double by the year 2050, and that means the nation’s medical bills are bound to grow.

In a new study, researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin suggest that “these troublesome realities could be offset by greater use of preventive health care services, which are known to enhance health and reduce health care costs.” Americans certainly have room for improvement on that score. Studies have shown that fewer than half of senior citizens take advantage of preventive health services, along with only one-quarter of middle-aged adults between the ages of 50 and 64, the researchers note.

The study authors wondered whether it would be possible to boost those figures by increasing the number of Americans who think they have a purpose in life, defined as “having meaning, a sense of direction and goals to live for.”


Read the full article "Rx for soaring health costs: Give more Americans a 'purpose in life'" at the Los Angeles Times.