Fact: Helping others can make you healthier

by convenor on 20/04/2019

Science says: “Want better health?

Then start helping others” 

And, for drivers, it’s as easy as joining CarPal

Community Rideshare.

 

 

Here’s why. The 2019 New Year “New Scientist” edition (05JAN19) carried an article by Linda Geddes titled “Happy New You” had a list of 5 worthwhile new year’s resolutions backed by research and 5 things that you need to stop doing.

The what I call “Do or Do More” list was: 

 

  • Start embracing nature;
  • Start learning a new language;
  • Start cutting back on alcohol;
  • Start brightening up your day;
  • Start helping others.

 

Whereas, the “Don’t Do or Do Less” list was:

 

  • Stop your gym membership;
  • Stop over consuming;
  • Stop late night snacking;
  • Stop scrimping on sleep;
  • Stop being so hard on yourself (if you don’t follow your resolutions at first).

 

And the scientific basis for improving your health by helping others, especially through VOLUNTEERING, is provided in the following excerpt. But, as always, there are qualifications as to whom it applies.

OK. So, not every volunteer can rest on their laurels because the scientific study behind the findings say you must 50 or older and be doing over 100 hours of volunteering per year to know that your health has benefitted. But even if you don’t meet the study criteria, there is no evidence to prove that volunteering is harmful to your health!

 

Start Helping Others

The essence of life. wrote Aristotle, is to serve others and do good. Make this the basis of a New Year’s resolution and you will be doing yourself a favour too.

It turns out that people who volunteer are happier and healthier on average than those who don’t. You can get these benefits by giving time to a cause you care about, whether related to the arts, the environment. politics or whatever. However, the biggest boost comes by doing work directly focused on helping others.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking on extra responsibilities can reduce stress. Consider, for example. a study by Rodlescia Sneed. now at Michigan State University and Sheldon Cohen of Carnegie Mellon University. They took blood pressure measurements from around 6700 people aged over 50. then simply let these people get on with their lives for four years before taking another measurement. What she and Cohen wanted to find out was whether volunteering would make a difference and whether more volunteering would provide even more benefits.

The results were conclusive. Compared with non-volunteers or those who had done less than 200 hours of voluntary work in the preceding two years, more active volunteers were 40 per cent less likely to have developed high blood pressure, One possible explanation is that volunteering takes your mind off your own troubles and may provide a sense of perspective. Another is that altruistic behaviour triggers the brain’s reward circuitry and the release of the “bonding” hormone oxytocin, both of which can reduce stress. “Stress is very much linked to high blood pressure”, says Sneed.

There is even more to be gained by helping others as we age, Sneed recently found that people who help care for their grandchildren stayed mentally sharp for longer than their counterparts. She believes social interaction is the key here.

 “There is a lot of evidence that people who have lots of social interaction, or are more socially engaged, have better health outcomes,” she says. “Also. when you are doing something productive, such as contributing to an organisation with volunteer work or helping to take care of your grandchildren, that can provide you with a sense of meaning or purpose, which is another thing that seems to really have positive outcomes for health.”

All my best,

Email-Sign-off

 

John

© 2019

 

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