Giving to Others Gives You Better Health

December 14, 2018

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Ramon Solhkhah, M.D. contributes to topics such as Behavioral Health.

By Ramon Solhkhah, M.D.

It’s the season of giving, so it isn’t uncommon for many of us to give back to others during this time of year. Whether you toss change in a collection bucket, give a toy to a child in need or make a large monetary donation, it turns out that being generous can be good for your health as well.

These are just a few tidbits of research about how helping others can not only make a lasting impact on their lives, but also yours. Giving to others can have positive benefits for your physical and mental health, too.

Better incentives, better health. While some people prefer to donate their time, making a financial contribution can be just as beneficial for our health. A 2014 report in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that the probability that people were more likely to report better health went up as tax subsidies increased for charitable giving. It also noted that giving to others can lower stress levels and bolster our immune systems.

Health and happiness. Studies tend to link personal happiness with improved health. A 2008 study reported that giving to others led to lasting improvements in the happiness levels of donors. In the experiment, those who reported spending more on others—something called “prosocial” spending—reported being happier. Interestingly, the amount of money they spent on themselves had no effect on their contentment. Not only can giving to others make you happy, but that happiness can lead to other benefits in your body.

Get the “helper’s high.” Making charitable donations or volunteering triggers the brain’s reward center. That, in turn, causes something that researchers call the “helper’s high.” Giving your time or money to others has been shown to lower rates of depression, reduce blood pressure, decrease heart disease rates and extend lifespan. Another study had similar results, showing that it reduced mortality by buffering the link between stress and mortality.

Give gratitude, too. In addition to giving, expressing gratitude can be just as beneficial on physical health. Writing a thank-you note, jotting down things you are grateful for, praying and meditating all have positive impacts on health. Making a year-end financial donation or giving your time to a local charity this time of year? Be sure to be thankful that you can help others while you’re at it.

Meridian Health Foundation is currently in the middle of the Giving Heals campaign, which focuses on how giving makes the world a happier and healthier place. Learn more about the Giving Heals campaign by visiting HackensackMeridianHealth.org/GivingHeals or calling 732-751-5100. Investing in Hackensack Meridian Health’s Foundations enable donors to make a lasting impact on community health. Learn more about becoming a donor today by visiting HackensackMeridianHealth.org/Give.

Ramon Solhkhah, M.D. is the professor and founding chair of the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

Sources:
Journal of Economic Psychology
Harvard
National Philanthropic Trust
University at Buffalo
Harvard Health

The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.