A study from December 2016 indicated that the secret to humanity’s desire to live longer may not exist in pills, surgical treatments, lotions, fad diets or exhausting workouts. The research, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, indicates that simply helping others increases the probability of living longer. Although the study focuses on grandparents who give occasional care to children or grandchildren, it also discusses the health benefits gained by childless couples who provide support to other people.
The researchers state that the neural and hormonal system that is triggered during caregiving can positively impact health and reduce the mortality of the helper. They indicate that these benefits occur when applied to both relatives and non-relatives.
Good Vibes from Volunteering
This study’s findings are not unique. A 2013 review of 40 similar studies indicated that volunteering can reduce early mortality rates by a surprising 22 percent. Published in BMC Public Health, the review also indicated that when people volunteer, they feel good. This can reduce depression and increase contentment.
In a statement, lead author Dr. Suzanne Richards states, “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in health.”
We Can Do Better
However, the review indicates that our global community has room for improvement. Only 27 percent of Americans and 22 percent of Europeans volunteer their time. Australia is slightly more altruistic, with 36 percent of Australians performing community service.
Having a busy schedule doesn’t necessarily exclude someone from the benefits of community service, as it doesn’t take a major time commitment to reap the rewards. According to the review, just an hour of volunteer work per month is enough for participants to absorb those positive emotions and potentially live longer.
It’s likely that many people would be capable of finding a way to spare an hour a month to support causes that are important to them. Health and longevity may just depend on it.
– Gisele Dunn