With graduation season, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day bringing smiles to families and spurring celebratory gatherings, there’s plenty of opportunity to be generous this time of year.
Now, psychologists show it may truly be better to give than to receive. Their research looked at how much money people spent on others, then compared that data to their blood pressure. It turns out that spending money on others — known as prosocial spending — was linked to lower blood pressure. The findings were published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.
As the researchers noted, helping others has a proven link to a longer, healthier life. So, it only makes sense that prosocial spending would offer health benefits.
The psychologists tested the idea in two studies. The first involved people ages 55 and older who had previously been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Looking at their giving habits and follow-up blood pressure levels two years later, the researchers saw a trend. Those who gave the most tended to have lower blood pressure.
A smaller, connected study by the same researchers took a shorter-term view. It also involved older people diagnosed with high blood pressure. Each person was given three $40 payments over three weeks and assigned to spend it on themselves or others. Those who spent the money on others had significantly lower blood pressure readings than those who used the funds on themselves.
The researchers said more work is required to establish a definitive cause-and-effect relationship between prosocial spending and lower blood pressure. In the meantime, indulge your loved ones this year. You could get more than a happy feeling in return.