Philanthropy feels like a selfless act; we give to others because we want to help them improve their own lives, not ours. Sure, the act of helping others makes us feel good, but aside from that are there any other personal benefits that come along with doing good for those around us? Scientific studies point to yes; While giving to others won’t have an outward effect on your life, the internal benefits of philanthropy are helpful and long-lasting. Caring for and helping out others provides numerous health benefits, most of which will probably surprise you. Here are just a few of the positive benefits of philanthropy.

  • It lowers your blood pressure.
    • A joint study from the University of British Columbia and the University of California titled “Is spending money on others good for your heart?” looked at the link between giving money to others and improved heart health. They decided to see if they could reduce blood pressure by having participants spend money on others versus themselves. At the end of the study, those who gave their money away experienced a reduction in blood pressure that’s comparable to the benefits caused by exercise and a healthy diet.
  • It decreases your risk for depression / decreases the symptoms of depression.
    • Volunteering and donating to others makes us feel happy, especially when we’re helping others in a face-to-face setting. A study that looked into adults in the U.S. who donate their time and resources to others found that 96% of adults who volunteer experience an increase in happiness, 89% feel an improved sense of well-being, 77% felt enhanced emotional health, and a whopping 92% experienced a greater sense of purpose.
  • It makes us “feel good.”
    • The good feeling you get when you help others is more than just a feeling – when we help others we receive a boost of the “feel good” chemicals serotonin and dopamine that are released by our brain. Serotonin, alongside helping your bowels and nerve cells to operate, is a chemical that promotes feelings of happiness and wellbeing and is linked to low level of depression. Dopamine is involved in numerous brain functions including motor skills and attention, but it is commonly referred to as the “pleasure chemical” as it is released as a “reward” when we do something particularly pleasurable like eating cupcakes. Both of these chemicals are produced by the brain when we’re involved with helping others, making us feel good when we do good.
  • It helps us live longer.
    • Researchers at the University of Buffalo conducted a 5-year study across multiple institutions to discover the impact that helping others would have on mortality rates, and the results were shocking. Michael J. Poulin, Ph.D., the principal investigator in the study, said that the results showed that, “helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.” Essentially, in helping others, we reduce our own stress which in turn helps us to live longer by reducing stress-related complications.

Philanthropy and your health do in fact go hand-in-hand. Once you yourself are in a healthy state or situation in life, you are most suited and in the best position to help others. This can be a self propagating and fulfilling cycle, but you must start somewhere, no matter how small.