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Giving to others leads to a happier and healthier life

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Giving to others is established scientifically to lead to health and longevity.

A study review finds giving gifts at Christmas - or anytime - can lead to a happier and healthier life.

Stephen G. Post, Ph.D., Professor of Preventive Medicine, Head of the Division of Medicine in Society, and Director, Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics, Stony Brook University School of Medicine conducted an investigation of research that revealed giving not only helps others but it also fosters personal well-being.

Post, who is the author of “The Hidden Gifts of Helping”, published his findings in “The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine”.

Dr. Post discovered more than 50 publications showing that compassion, kindness and acting sincerely for the benefit of others can lead to better health and a longer life, but he also says it's important to find balance.

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“In total, the research on the benefits of giving is extremely powerful, to the point that suggests healthcare professionals should consider recommending such activities to patients,” says Dr. Post. “However, there is a caveat in that we need to balance our lives and should know our limitations when giving of our time and self to others, as overdoing may affect us negatively.”

One of the discoveries made by Post was at 41% of Americans performed volunteer work at least 2 hours a week; 68 percent say volunteering makes them feel physically healthier.

He says it’s not professionals, but everyday people coping with pain, depression, alcohol and drug addiction recovery and even multiple sclerosis that are found to be healthier and live longer from giving to others.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Just thinking about giving to others is linked to a healthier and longer life.
  • Focusing on self doesn’t make people happy.
  • Giving to others is a form of self-help.
  • Starting young has lifelong health benefits.
  • Volunteering boosts mood, overall health and promotes self-esteem.
  • Altruistic behavior reduces mortality risk from all causes.

The research, according to Post, shows giving and generosity toward others is scientifically established to lead to better health and a longer life, whether it's at Christmas or just during the course of an otherwise ordinary day.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons