The Main Health Benefits of Charitable Giving
Though giving seems to be a one-directional affair, benefiting the recipient at the sacrifice of the giver, in truth giving has bidirectional benefits. The beauty is everyone benefits from a charitable gift. The main health benefits of charitable giving are not necessarily intuitive, though—here are three examples for those curious.
Diminished Depression Symptoms
First, helping others leads to a demonstrably improved mood, better self-esteem, higher energy levels, and general happiness. Labeled a “helper’s high,” do-gooding leads to the release of the “happiness trifecta” hormones, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.
While a generally elevated mood has a distinctive physical appeal and related health benefits, giving also helps limit the specific symptoms of depression. For those with chronic or periodic depressive symptoms, giving, through the release of this hormone trifecta, may boost interest in former activities, improve diet regularity, limit digestive problems, and address insomnia. While these health benefits are not absolute, many with depression benefit in one of these or other ways, particularly when giving combines with counseling and/or taking medication.
Lower Blood Pressure
Giving is also an effective de-stressor. Giving your time or resources calms you in part because it affords you control. While other events in your life are unpredictable, and you face obligations (even good ones, like caring for your kids) that steal away your sense of agency, choosing to give of yourself helps you take charge of your life. Overall, this sense of control contributes to lower blood pressure and other reduced-stress health outcomes.
A Longer Life in General
On the whole, another main health benefit of charitable giving is a longer life. A study on the longevity of older individuals supports this, even after testing whether healthier individuals simply were more able to give of their time and efforts. Though the reason for this connection between charitable giving and longevity is murky, the correlation is clear.
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