Department or Program



Purpose in life is associated with better physical and psychological well-being (Bonebright, Clay, & Ankenmann, 2000; Eriksson & Lindström, 2006; Ishida & Okada, 2006; Kashdan & McKnight, 2013; McKnight & Kashdan, 2009; Zika & Chamberlain, 1992). One explanation as to how purpose benefits individuals’ physical and psychological health is through its ability to reduce stress (Antonovsky, 1986; Hong, 2008; Ishida & Okada, 2006; McSherry & Holm, 1994). Research suggests that purposeful individuals are better able to handle stressors than other individuals (Bronk, 2014). The goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between purpose and stress. This study specifically evaluated the relationship between purpose and salivary cortisol reactivity to a laboratory-induced social stressor. Additionally, three explanations that Bronk (2014) posits for how stress is related to purpose were evaluated. Participants completed the purpose in life subscale of the Ryff’s Scales of Psychological Well-Being (Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Keyes, 1995) and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (Zimet, Dahlem, Zimet & Farley, 1988), and participated in the Trier Social Stress Test (Kirschbaum, Pirke, & Hellhammer, 1993). Participants also ranked how stressed they felt during the stress induction on a Visual Analog Scale. Saliva samples were taken before and after the stress induction, and salivary cortisol concentrations were measured using Salimetrics ELISA kits. The results indicated that purpose was not associated with cortisol reactivity and not associated with psychological stress perceptions. Purpose in life was marginally associated with social support, and was specifically associated with perceived friends support and perceived family support. Finally, although purpose in life was not associated with cortisol reactivity, purpose was associated with post-stressor cortisol concentration values. Implications and future directions for research are discussed.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Nigro, Georgia

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages



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