People who help others are likely to live longer, new research finds.
The conclusions come from a study of grandparents and their grandchildren.
Researchers followed more than 500 people aged 70 to 103-years-old.
Those that gave occasional childcare to their grandchildren — or helped out their own children — tended to live longer.
Another analysis showed that the beneficial effects extended to childless older couples who provided emotional support to others.
Professor Ralph Hertwig, a senior author of the study, cautioned that:
“…helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life.
A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health.
But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”
Ms Sonja Hilbrand, the study’s first author, said:
“It seems plausible that the development of parents’ and grandparents’ prosocial behavior toward their kin left its imprint on the human body in terms of a neural and hormonal system that subsequently laid the foundation for the evolution of cooperation and altruistic behavior towards non-kin.”
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
The study was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior (Hilbrand et al., 2016).