Volume 5, Article 13
How do young men experience meaning in life?
Peter Hughes and Tim Lomas
Citation: Hughes, P., & Lomas, T. (2021). ‘How do young men experience meaning in life?’ European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 5, 12, 1-13. https://www.nationalwellbeingservice.org/volumes/volume-5-2021/volume-5-article-13/
Processing dates: Submitted 21st November 2020; Resubmitted 21st April 2021; Accepted 4th May 2021; Published 15th September 2021
Background: Despite indications that the presence of meaning in life is associated with potential benefits for common crises men face, few meaning in life studies examine this population, and a lack of qualitative meaning in life research in general exacerbates the concept’s “definitional ambiguity”.
Objectives: This study seeks to address these imbalances by examining how those young men who do feel a sense of meaning report its development, with the aim of identifying themes which may highlight protective factors for young men’s mental health.
Methods: We use interpretative phenomenological analysis to explore semi-structured interviews from four British men aged 18-24, following purposive sampling of 129 survey respondents.
Results: Participants describe a journey to meaning through three themes; (1) engagement in an active searching process, (2) seeking authentic significance, and (3) the application of the felt effects of meaning in life toward goal formation and as a buffer against stressors.
Discussion: This paper provides a unique ideographic insight into the development of meaning in life for young men which contributes to the ongoing discussion on the
concept’s definition and asset-based responses to the common crises of masculinity.
Conclusion: Our research explores young men’s experience of meaning in life as part of their identity development. Limitations and suggestions for future research are provided.
Keywords: meaning in life, life purpose, youth, masculinity, gender, phenomenology
Peter Hughes, 1410 Cypress Place, Manchester, M4 4EH, UK
Dr Tim Lomas is at University of East London, University
Way, Royal Docks, London E16 2RD