A recently published study from the US reports that helping other people can help you deal with the stressful events in your life.1
The original research was carried out in the 1980s and 1990s among older married couples, monitoring health and lifestyles with the aim of establishing how your physical and mental health might be affected by how caring you are.
The original research asked people whether or not they had experienced significant stress symptoms in the recent past and looked at how often they spent time on altruistic activities. The researchers then spent a period of five years tracking the participants in terms of their risk of dying and evaluated the connection between participants' caring activities, their experiences of stress and, where applicable, their subsequent death.
As with previous studies, the findings confirmed that the more exposed you were to stressful events, the greater risk there was of death. However they also indicated that both the experience of stress and the associated death risk were reduced if you spent at least some of your time helping others.
Although the study has some limitations in terms of whether the findings can be universally applied, it does enhance our knowledge of how being generous and helping other people might also enhance your mental and physical wellbeing.
1. Poulin MJ, Brown SL, Dillard AJ, Smith DM. Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality. American Journal of Public Health. Published online January 17 2013.