Scientists reveal that generosity protects our health and helps us to live longer

Being generous can give you more than a warm glow… scientists say it protects health and helps you live longerScientists from America's University of Buffalo conducted five-year studyLooked at amount of time people spent helping friends and neighbours

By
Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:

00:11 GMT, 6 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

03:42 GMT, 6 February 2013


A report by the University of Buffalo found that being generous to friends, neighbours and relatives can improve our health

Helping hand: A report by the University of Buffalo found that being generous to friends, neighbours and relatives can improve our health

It has long been said that it’s better to give than receive.

Now scientists have revealed that the benefits of generosity extend beyond a warm glow.

Providing tangible help to others appears to protect our health and lengthens our lives, they claim.

A five-year study of 846 individuals found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not.

Stressful experiences included such things as serious illness, burglary, job loss, financial difficulties or death of a family member.

Respondents reported the amount of time in the past 12 months they had spent helping friends, neighbours or relatives not living with them by providing transport, running errands, doing shopping, performing housework, looking after children and other tasks.

Michael J. Poulin, of the University at Buffalo in the US, said: ‘This study offers a significant contribution…to our understanding of how giving assistance to others may offer health benefits to the giver by buffering the negative effects of stress.’

He added: ‘Our conclusion is that helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.'

He added: 'As the title of our study indicates we tested the hypothesis that providing help to others
would predict a reduced association between stress and mortality for the
helpers.

'Specifically, over the five years of the study, we found that
when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others
during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not
helped others.'

The five-year study of 846 individuals found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not

The five-year study of 846 individuals found that when dealing with stressful situations, those who had helped others during the previous year were less likely to die than those who had not

He said: 'When we adjusted for age, baseline health
and functioning and key psychosocial variables, the Cox
proportional hazard models (the most widely used method of survival
analysis) for mortality revealed a significant interaction between
helping behavior, stressful events, morbidity and mortality.

'Our conclusion is that helping others reduced mortality
specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.

'These findings go beyond past analyses to indicate that the health
benefits of helping behavior derive specifically from stress-buffering
processes and provide important guidance for
understanding why helping behavior specifically may promote health and,
potentially, for how social processes in general may influence health.

The study – in conjunction with Stony Brook University and Grand Valley State University – points out that although it is known that social isolation and stress have significant impacts on health, research has failed to establish whether receiving support from others helps protect individuals from stress in the same way as ‘givers’.

The report will be published in the American Journal of Public Health.