291 Altruism & Good Health
Based on research done by Schwartz, Carolyn., Meisenhelder, Janice., Ma, Yunsheng., & Reed, George., (2003) written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.
Altruism is the practice of giving time, skills, or a donation for the wellbeing of others. Does helping others have any benefit to the altruistic person or does all benefit go to those receiving help?
Researchers surveyed 2000 Presbyterian church members across the US to identify whether helping behaviors related to physical and mental wellbeing. Questionnaires evaluated participants interest in giving and receiving help, prayer habits, religious coping strategies and self-reported physical and mental health.
Results found no relationship between obtaining help and better physical functioning, as physical wellbeing was already rated high. However, helping others and obtaining help were both meaningful predictors of mental health, after adjusting for participant’s demographics, religious practices, and significant life incidents. Providing help to others was more related to positive mental health than was obtaining help. However, when participants felt overwhelmed by the demands from others there was a negative impact on mental health. Overall, giving help to those in need benefitted participants more than other coping strategies such as religious activities and stress management. Yet with better mental health we are more likely to help others.
In any case, everyone feels better when we help each other.
Schwartz, C., Meisenhelder, J., Ma, Y., & Reed, G. (2003). Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors Are Associated With Better Mental Health. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 778-785.