Volume 5, Article 13

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

Volume 5, Article 13


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
E-mail: peter@phugh.es

Dr Tim Lomas is at University of East London, University
Way, Royal Docks, London E16 2RD
E-mail: t.lomas@uel.ac.uk
Website: https://www.drtimlomas.com/