People who are more generous are better protected against envy, a new study suggests.
Those who give more away to others also experience less envy when they see that others have more.
It may help more generous people cope with the depressing sight of seeing others doing better than ourselves.
The conclusions come from a study which investigated how people’s happiness fluctuates with their own fortunes and those of others.
Researchers developed an equation to predict people’s happiness.
Dr Robb Rutledge, who co-led the study, explained:
“Our equation can predict exactly how happy people will be based not only on what happens to them but also what happens to the people around them.
On average we are less happy if others get more or less than us, but this varies a lot from person to person.
Interestingly, the equation allows us to predict how generous an individual will be in a separate scenario when they are asked how they would like to split a small amount of money with another person.
Based on exactly how inequality affects their happiness, we can predict which individuals will be altruistic.”
The study involved a series of games in which people gambled and were also offered the chance to share their winnings with others.
Mr Archy de Berker, who co-led the study, said:
“…generosity towards strangers relates to how our happiness is affected by the inequalities we experience in our daily life.
The people who gave away half of their money when they had the opportunity showed no envy when they experienced inequality in a different task but showed a lot of guilt.
By contrast, those who kept all the money for themselves displayed no signs of guilt in the other task but displayed a lot of envy.”
In other words: it is useful to be generous, because it is linked to less envy when others have more.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications (Rutledge et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Winning man image from Shutterstock