Helping others you help yourself

The Bible insists it's more blessed to give than to receive. Today scientists proved that giving increases the giver's longevity. And that receiving support isn't always an unmitigated blessing. Such a discovery was made by researchers from the University of Michigan. There are two main kinds of support - instrumental and emotional. Driving a friend to the doctor's, helping a sick or elderly neighbor with shopping, volunteering to deliver meals to the housebound or caring for a chronically ill family member - these are examples of instrumental help. When we speak about emotional help we mean things like making the other person feel loved, cared for and listened to when they need to talk.

Intuitively we believe that helping makes the other person feel better. But receiving support can also generate feelings of dependence. And depending on other people for help and support can cause guilt or anxiety. It can make people feel like a burden to others, and even heighten tendencies to suicide among receivers.

Researchers have known that social contact can have a measurable impact on protecting people's health. It seems to boost the immune system, lower the frequency of colds and other infections. It speeds wound healing. But now it turns out that not all social contact is created equal. And the benefits of social contact may belong only to those who are on the giving end of the contact.

Giving, finds a team of researchers at, reduces mortality and promotes longevity. It doesn't matter whether the support is in the form of the kind of emotional support that spouses exchange or the instrumental help one might provide to a neighbor. Either way, it has a significant impact on the giver.

Helping others reduces distress in givers, improves both mental and physical health. It gives people a sense of belonging and of mattering. It increases happiness, decreases depression. In short, it increases positive emotions. And positive emotions are good for the body, promoting cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system, Psychologytoday reports. I.L.

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