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Life Purpose: Effect on Functional Decline and Quality of Life in Polio Survivors


  • Tracie C. Harrison PhD RN CS FNP,

    Assistant Professor, Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Tracie C. Harrison, PhD RN CS FNP, is an assistant professor at BAGNC Hartford and an Atlantic Post-doctoral Scholar, School of Nursing, University of Texas–Austin.

  • Alexa K. Stuifbergen PhD RN FAAN

    Professor and Associate DeanSearch for more papers by this author
    • Alexa K. Stuifbergen, PhD RN FAAN, is a professor and associate dean for research at the School of Nursing, University of Texas.

PO Box 344, Thorndale, TX 76577 or


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.