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Most Older Workers Say Their Jobs Spark a Sense of Purpose

But younger employees are more likely to want to make a difference in the greater community

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Most middle-aged and older workers (72 percent of boomers and 65 percent of Gen Xers) get a sense of purpose from their job and are inclined to see what they’re doing as important, according to a new survey. But they’re somewhat less likely than younger employees to try to make an impact on the community at large.

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What does “sense of purpose” mean? The survey, part of MetLife’s 17th annual “U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study,” found that 81 percent of boomers and 74 percent of Gen Xers think the term refers to regularly accomplishing their daily tasks. Most (71 percent of boomers and 67 percent of Gen Xers) said it includes creating value for their employer.

Based on interviews with 2,675 full-time employees 21 and older, the survey found that those who don’t experience a sense of purpose are more likely to feel stressed (53 percent) than those who do (39 percent). They’re also more likely to complain of feeling tired (60 percent) than those with a purpose (39 percent).

“Employees [who] have a strong sense of purpose are more productive, successful, engaged and satisfied,” Todd Katz, MetLife’s executive vice president of group benefits, said via email.

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The survey also found that 70 percent of boomers and 68 percent of Gen Xers want to work on something they are passionate about, and about two-thirds of those in both groups are looking to do work that adds meaning to their lives.

A majority (58 percent of boomers and 59 percent of Gen Xers) seek purpose through work that has relevance to the greater community. A higher share (72 percent) of younger workers said the same.

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