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The Science of Living with Purpose

Patrick Hill investigates the effects of living purposefully on health, wealth, and wellness – and how to maintain one’s purpose through life’s transitions.
Patrick Hill

In the Purpose, Aging, Transitions, and Health (PATH) lab, Patrick Hill and his collaborators examine a wide range of questions relating to purpose. He and his students want to know how people find their purpose, how purpose relates to health and wellness, and, most recently, how life transitions like retirement affect a person’s ability to live purposefully. The work has real-world implications for just about anyone, at just about any phase of life. Read the article in the fall 2021 edition of Ampersand magazine and join this Q&A, moderated by alumnus Sherman A. James, to learn more about Hill's research.

About Patrick Hill, presenter

Patrick ​Hill is associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences. Hill's research focuses on understanding how dispositional traits predict and shape trajectories of healthy aging. He is interested in how individuals explore options for and ultimately commit to a purpose for life, and how having a sense of purpose predicts important life outcomes. In addition, he examines the lifespan development of pro-social personality characteristics, such as dispositional gratitude and forgiveness, as well as how these traits influence relationship outcomes. His research program considers these questions with the intent of promoting healthy development from adolescence into older adulthood.

About Sherman A. James, moderator

Sherman A. James
Sherman A. James

Sherman A. James is the Susan B. King Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Public Policy in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. He also held secondary professorships, at Duke, in sociology, community and family medicine, and African and African American studies. Prior to Duke, he taught in the epidemiology departments at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (1973-89) and at the University of Michigan (1989-2003). At Michigan, he was the John P. Kirscht Collegiate Professor of Public Health, the founding director of the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, and a senior research scientist in the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research.

James earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy in 1964 from Talladega College in Alabama and his doctorate in psychology in 1973 from Washington University in St. Louis. His research focuses on the social determinants of U.S. racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in health and health care. He is the originator of the John Henryism Hypothesis which posits that repeated high-effort coping with chronic social and economic stressors rooted in systemic racism contributes to the early onset of hypertension and related cardiometabolic diseases in African Americans.