Keynote speaker: Tatjana Schnell

Wednesday, 23.08.2016, 9:00am

Meaning in Life, Mental and Physical Health: Insights, Interpretation, Implementation

An increasing number of studies attest to the crucial role of meaningfulness for mental and physical health. Meaningfulness emerges as a core mediator between a multitude of sources of meaning, such as religiosity, spirituality, unison with nature, etc., and health. It is positively associated with quality of life, self-regulation, basic psychological needs, physical functionality, and health behavior, and negatively related to depression, anxiety, perception of pain, and symptom burden. In longitudinal studies, meaningfulness has been shown to decrease the probability of cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer disease. Controlling for relevant additional factors, meaningfulness reduces mortality risk by about 23%. How can these relationships be explained? A crisis of meaning thwarts health behavior and healing, whereas meaningfulness has motivating and moderating impacts on health. It energizes engagement in life and assumption of responsibility for health. Meaningfulness also supports an appraisal of stressors as challenges, rather than burdens. Negative consequences on psychological and biological systems are thus buffered and inflammatory processes limited. Several clinical interventions have been developed to create or sustain a sense of meaning.


Dr Tatjana Schnell is an Associate Professor at Innsbruck University. She is head of the research group Empirical research on meaning in life. Her work focuses on fundamental questions of how to conceptualize and measure meaning in life, as well as on the nexus of meaning in life and religion, secularity, well-being, health, work, and civic engagement. Tatjana has developed the Sources of Meaning and Meaning in Life Questionnaire (SoMe) and authored numerous scientific papers. She serves as General Secretary and Treasurer of the International Association for the Psychology of Religion, as Associate Editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies and member of several editorial boards, such as those of the Archive for the Psychology of Religion, the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Religions, and Implicit Religion. After studying psychology and theology in Göttingen (GER), London (UK), Heidelberg (GER) and Cambridge (UK), she obtained her doctorate at Trier University (GER) and her venia legendi for Psychology at Innsbruck University (AUT).