Why should we be good? One reason may be spiritual – because that’s what God wants us to do. Another may be moral – because it is right. Yet another – it brings good health, physical and psychological.
Over the past 10 years, there have been about 500 serious scientific studies that demonstrate the power of unselfish love to enhance health, including the following:
- Giving in high school predicts good physical and mental health all the way into late adulthood, a time interval of over 50 years.
- Giving reduces mortality significantly in later life, even when you start late.
- Those who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying.
- Giving reduces adolescent depression and suicide risk.
- Teen girls are more giving than teen boys.
- Offering social support to others reduces people’s anxiety over their own economic situation.
- Giving to others helps us forgive ourselves for our own mistakes.
- Helping friends, relatives, and neighbours, along with providing emotional support to a spouse, reduces mortality, although receiving the same kind of help does not.
- Even the simple act of praying for others reduces the harmful impact of health difficulties in old age for those doing the praying.
When we give, it is likely that we turn off the fight-or-flight response. Giving pushes aside the brooding negative emotions, like rage and spite and envy, that clearly contribute to stress-induced psychological and physical illness. A full 50% of helpers reported felling the “helper’s high” in a study. Giving may be potent because it is built of three important qualities: a giving disposition, empathy, and competence, particularly social competence.
I did not invent any of these words, but read them in the book “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” by Stephen Post and Jill Neimark. One might say these are just common sense. What is interesting to me is that these ideas are confirmed by scientific research. Dr. Post is the head of the Institute of Unlimited Love at the Case Western Reserve University Medical School.
Volunteers and students were singing in the summer camp in July this year (2007), in YX, Hubei. The students and volunteers were both deeply affected.