Americans who find meaning in these four areas have higher life satisfaction

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Discovering where people find meaning in life is a challenging task. One way is to give them an opportunity to write, in their own words, about the things that give them a sense of meaning and satisfaction with their lives. When we asked U.S. adults in a survey conducted last year, respondents mentioned many different topics, with family emerging as the most common source of meaning. But of the 30 topics that were studied, only four were universally associated with higher levels of life satisfaction: a person’s good health, romantic partner, friends and career.

Regardless of age, income, religion and other demographic factors, Americans who mentioned these parts of their lives as meaningful were more likely to rate their lives as satisfying than those who did not, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of responses from 4,492 adults surveyed in September 2017.

Respondents were asked to rate their lives on a scale of zero to 10 before providing their open-ended responses. On average, Americans rated their life satisfaction at a 6.7 on a zero-to-10 scale with a majority choosing a value between five and eight. A follow-up question asked what made their lives meaningful or kept them going.

These are the four areas where people with higher life ratings said they found a sense of meaning:

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