Fwd Altruistic Actions
- Altruistic Actions May Result In Better Mental Health
People who offer love, listening and help to others may be rewarded
with better mental health themselves, according to a new study of
churchgoers in the September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
The study is one of the first to track the positive health benefits
of altruistic behavior, say Carolyn Schwartz, Sc.D., of the
University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues.
"The findings really emphasize how helping others can help oneself,"
Schwartz and colleagues analyzed data collected by the Presbyterian
Church for 2,016 congregation members. The members were asked about
how often they "made others feel loved and cared for" and "listened
to others" in the congregation, and how often they received this
attention in return.
The members also answered survey questions about their mental and
physical health. Most of the congregation members were in good
physical and mental health to begin with, experiencing only normal
levels of anxiety and depression.
While the researchers did not find any significant differences in
physical health specifically related to giving and receiving help,
they concluded that giving help was a better predictor of good mental
health than receiving help.
But feeling overwhelmed by others' demands -- giving until it hurts --
can have negative psychological effects, according to the
"Although our findings suggest that people who help others experience
better mental health, our findings also suggest that giving beyond
one's own resources is associated with worse reported mental health,"
Church leaders, older individuals, women and those who took
satisfaction from prayer were more likely to be helpers rather than
receivers, according to Schwartz and colleagues.
People who give help to others may be less likely to focus inward on
their own anxieties and depression or more apt to see their own
troubles in perspective, leading to better mental health, say the
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