Generosity Leads to Living With Purpose

There are life-changing benefits to being generous.

Oct 13, 2020

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People enjoy giving to others. Generosity is a form of giving freely without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Not only does it make one feel happy and fulfilled, a recent study shows that generosity can actually lengthen one’s life.

A study from the University of California researched giving from one generation to another. Previous studies have measured giving on an individual level, but these researchers aimed to compare cultural differences around the world. They took data from 34 countries on six continents and measured the total transfers of private gifts from relatives, as well as health care and retirement benefits.

Working on the premise that mankind has survived because of resource sharing, they explain that the elderly hunter-gatherers would assist the younger generation just as parents provide for their children today.

As we now live in more complex societies which provide safety nets for the elderly, this type of giving continues, however the study shows people who live in countries with higher intergenerational support enjoy longer longevity.

The results found that Western European countries, along with Japan and South American countries, have the highest levels of sharing resources, as well as lower levels of mortality. Above and beyond the understanding that shared resources improve health and satisfy material needs, the researchers looked for deeper reasons as to why generosity aids survival.

They concluded that both giving and receiving are beneficial. The researchers quoted a study on “warm-glow giving,” which shows how altruistic givers may not receive anything in return, yet their wellbeing and health improves.

People who volunteer, share, and offer support benefit from their actions. They have improved mental health, physical health, sense of wellbeing, and enjoy longevity across all societies studied and in all ages. Another benefit of giving is the release of oxytocin, a hormone that produces feelings of love, empathy, and generosity.

These findings, according to CNN, align with the World Happiness Report which is published annually by the United Nations. The report uses generosity and longevity as two of its six variables when deciding on happiness ratings.

In fact, there is a strong connection between generosity and trust. John Helliwell, co-editor of the report told CNN that high resilience is equated to high mutual trust, and this is a key to man’s evolutionary story. As a result, the world is no longer measured by survival of the fittest, rather it is about survival of cooperative societies.

The report suggests that since living in a trusting society benefits individuals’ health, it results in lower health care costs. A trusting social environment also promotes wellbeing, leading to an improvement in the length of life for all. 

The rewards of giving and its effects are immeasurable. Those who are generous, according to Psychalive, become less isolated, less self-critical, and less self-centered. They develop confidence, are more attuned, and gain a sense of purpose. And, according to the generosity study, they tend to live longer, happier lives.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.