Monday, June 04, 2007

Is Helping Others Good For You?

The warm feeling you get from making someone feel better may prolong your own life. A 14-year study of 2,700 people in Tecumseh, Michigan, found a decline in the mortality rate of men who did volunteer work, compared with that of men who didn't. Another study, at Harvard, showed a rise in disease-fighting antibodies in the saliva of students seeing a film about the work among Calcutta's (now Kolkata) poor of Mother Teresa (died in 1997), one of the most admired altruists of this or any other era.

From surveys of people regularly involved in helping others, the picture emerges of altruism lightening depression and bringing increased energy. Many volunteers speak of a "helper's calm" much like the runner's high that comes with exercise. Helping people, like exercise, seems to have a calming effect on the brain and body and may reduce heart stress by curbing anger and irritability.


josh said...

Haha! Well, I guess it depends how many different causes you volunteer for and how many hours you already put in for non-voluntary paid work.

Burnout happens with voluntary commitments as well.

Robyn McMaster said...

Hi TecSavvy, I have seen many folks gain a whole new sense of belonging right after they retire because they volunteer in many arenas, such as hospitals, children's centers, and Red Cross. Helping others certainly is good for people who do it and their lives bear it out! Thanks for a very thoughtful post.