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06 March 2013

Generosity bolsters long-term human survival

Is it better to give to others than to indulge yourself? It appears so, says a new study that suggests people around the world - even in poor nations - feel better when they spend money on someone other than themselves.

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Is it better to give to others than to indulge yourself?

It appears so, says a new study that suggests people around the world - even in poor nations - feel better when they spend money on someone other than themselves.

"Our findings suggest that the psychological reward experienced from helping others may be deeply ingrained in human nature, emerging in diverse cultural and economic contexts," study author Lara Aknin, of Simon Fraser University in Canada, said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

The study finds evidence that a "warm glow" surrounding spending on someone else is widespread, the authors said.

What the study found

The researchers found a positive connection between well-being and spending on others in 120 of 136 countries surveyed in the 2006-2008 Gallup World Poll. The poll surveyed almost 235 000 people. Their average age was 38. Similar results were found in a smaller survey conducted in India.

The researchers also conducted an experiment with more than 200 university students in Canada and South Africa who were given some money and told to buy a goody bag for themselves or children at a nearby hospital. The students who bought the treats for a sick child reported higher levels of well-being than the others.

"From an evolutionary perspective, the emotional benefits that people experience when they help others acts to encourage generous behaviour beneficial to long-term human survival," Aknin said.

More information

For details on stress management, try the US National Library of Medicine.

 
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