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Montrell Reid
Montrell Reid

Man's Search For Meaning: Young Adult Edition: Young Adult Edition

Unfortunately, Dallmann's experience reflects a growing trend seen across the country. Since the 1990s, the rate of colorectal cancer (which includes cancers of the colon and rectum) has been rising steadily among adults younger than 50. Not only that, but more younger people are dying from the disease.

Man's Search for Meaning: Young Adult Edition: Young Adult Edition

In September, more than 400 leading scientists from academia, industry, and government, along with patient advocates, gathered online to exchange ideas and information about colorectal cancer in younger adults. The goal of the think tank, organized by NCI and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), was to identify research priorities that address important questions about the disease.

Nearly 18,000 people under the age of 50 will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer this year in the United States, said Rebecca Siegel, M.P.H., of the American Cancer Society. But the disease is still relatively rare, affecting far less than 1% of younger adults.

For example, some screening tests check for specific molecules made by colorectal cancer or polyps (growths that could turn into cancer). Knowing which molecules are key to the growth of early-onset tumors could help researchers design screening or diagnostic tests that are tailored for younger adults. It could also help them develop treatments that target those key molecules (an approach known as targeted therapy).

Steger and his collaborators (Steger et al. 2009) point to noticeable variations in meaning in life among four life stage groups: emerging adulthood, young adulthood, middle-age adulthood, and older adulthood. Individuals at later life stages (middle-age adulthood and older adulthood) generally report a greater presence of meaning in their lives, whereas those at earlier life stages (emerging adulthood and young adulthood) tend to express higher levels of searching for meaning. Presence of meaning has similar relations to well-being across life stages, whereas search for meaning is more strongly linked with well-being deficits at later life stages. Among adults, presence of meaning in life is linked to desirable psychological outcomes such as life satisfaction, whereas the reported search for meaning is often linked to undesirable ones such as depression (Steger et al. 2006, 2009). However, search for meaning is positively associated with greater life satisfaction, more happiness, and less depression among those who already had substantial meaning in their life (Park et al. 2010).

This finding is important for future research as it suggests that search for meaning does not have to necessarily be viewed in negative terms as a factor detrimental to life satisfaction. Although among adults search for meaning is often linked to undesirable psychological outcomes such as depression and lower life satisfaction (Steger et al. 2006, 2009), it can play a positive role for those adolescents who already have meaning in their life. This interpretation is consistent with the findings obtained by Park et al. (2010) who demonstrated that search for meaning was positively associated with greater life satisfaction, more happiness, and less depression among adults with a relatively high level of meaning in life. Therefore, search for meaning might play a larger and more gratifying role among younger populations than older populations. Research on adolescents also suggests that search for meaning may be conducive to the identity exploration in developmental crises that are a normal, healthy part of maturation (Steger et al. 2009).

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