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Keywords:

  • allostatic load;
  • disability;
  • mental health;
  • polio;
  • purpose in life

This article explores the protective effects that finding a purpose in life has on the level of physical and mental impairment and overall quality of life. Results were gathered from a national sample of 2,153 polio survivors. Although the combined social and physical experience of living with the disabling effects of polio has been associated with accelerated aging due to an increased allostatic load, finding a purpose in life may diminish these effects. The findings of this study indicate that purpose in life is associated with less perceived decline in health. Moreover, purpose in life is predictive of better quality of life despite levels of physical and mental impairment. Rehabilitation nurses should consider ways to help persons with polio maintain activities and interests that promote their sense of purpose in life.