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Meaning in Life and Mental Health Issues in Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis

Shu Nie1, Jiyoon Lim2, Xintian Xu3, Lei Zheng4, Yiqun Gan2,*

1 School of Public Management, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot, 010021, China
2 School of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences and Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental Health, Peking University, Beijing, 100091, China
3 The Third Hospital of Beijing Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100091, China
4 School of Economics and Management, Center for China Social Trust Research, and Institute of Psychological and Cognitive Sciences, Fuzhou University, Fuzhou, 350108, China

* Corresponding Author: Yiqun Gan. Email: email

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2023, 25(9), 971-984.


This study aims to be the first to use meta-analysis to explore the relationship between meaning in life (MIL) and mental health issues among older adults. A meta-analysis was conducted using six databases, resulting in 16 studies with 5,074 participants in total. The “metacor” and “forestplot” packages in R-Studio were used for data analysis. The total effect was calculated using a random-effects model, with I² = 86% in the heterogeneity test. The results showed a moderate negative correlation between MIL and mental health issues among older adults, with an average effect of −0.37. Five potential moderating variables were examined: the conceptualization of MIL (value vs. purpose), region (Asian vs. Western countries), residence status (community vs. nursing home vs. hospital), types of mental health issues, and evaluation methods (clinical vs. non-clinical). The first four had no significant moderating effect. The mean correlation coefficients between mental health issues and value/purpose were −0.49/−0.33; the mean correlation coefficients in Asian countries and Western countries were −0.48 and −0.34; the mean correlation coefficients among participants living in community/nursing home/mixed status were −0.33/−0.40/−0.40; the mean correlation coefficients between MIL and depression/others were −0.37/−0.35; however, the negative relationship between MIL and mental health issues was stronger when non-clinical evaluations (self-report only) were used. Specifically, the mean correlation coefficient for non-clinical evaluations was −0.42 and for clinical evaluations was −0.29. This study is the first meta-analysis to identify the negative correlation between older adults’ MIL and mental health issues. Significant moderating effects of evaluation methods were found.


Cite This Article

Nie, S., Lim, J., Xu, X., Zheng, L., Gan, Y. (2023). Meaning in Life and Mental Health Issues in Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 25(9), 971–984.

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