Interview-Rated Meaning and Survival over 17 Years in People Living with HIV

Gail Ironson, Rachel Verhagen, Beatriz Da Rosa, Emily Hylton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether meaning in life predicts survival in people living with HIV (PLWH) over 17 years. This study also examined whether interviewer- and transcript-rated meanings predict survival equivalently. A third purpose of the study was to investigate whether meaning in life adds to the prediction of survival over positive emotional expression. Methods A diverse sample of people with HIV (n = 177) completed an interview on stress and coping at baseline and were followed up for survival up to 17 years. Meaning was measured by interviewer rating of four items (meaningful purpose, unfinished business, finding new meaning, and meaningful activities). Transcript-rated meaning was assessed by two independent raters. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to determine whether meaning predicted survival over 17 years. Results Meaning in life predicted significantly greater survival, adjusting for biomedical and sociodemographic variables whether assessed by interviewer or by transcript raters. Hazard ratios suggest that the effect is moderate to large (2.66-3.45 for top versus bottom third; 2.05-2.49 for top versus bottom half). Significance was maintained after adjusting for positive emotion. Conclusions Meaning assessed by interview (by both interviewer and transcript ratings) predicted greater survival over 17 years in PLWH and did so above positive emotion. This adds to a literature that is primarily based on self-report questionnaires. Meaning may have beneficial effects for both psychological and physical health in PLWH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-678
Number of pages8
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • HIV
  • interview
  • meaning
  • mortality
  • purpose
  • survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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