Many people are helping others during this crisis and they probably notice how good their efforts make them feel.
That’s not surprising. Numerous studies have found a strong association between helping others and experiencing greater well-being. For example, Kathleen Hunter and Margaret Linn at the University of Miami compared older volunteer workers (individuals over 65) with those of similar age and background who were not volunteers. The volunteers had significantly higher life satisfaction scores and fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Neal Krause and colleagues at the University of Michigan conducted a nationwide survey of adults 60 years and older. Those who offered informal help to others, such as delivering meals or chauffeuring, had fewer symptoms of depression and reported a greater sense of personal control in their life than non-helpers.
Carolyn Schwartz at the University of Massachusetts asked 2016 members of the Presbyterian Church to fill in questionnaires about their activities, mental well-being and physical health. Those who gave help as well as those who received it reported better mental health, but giving help was the more reliable predictor of mental well-being.
Helping others is also linked to better physical health. Rachel Piferi and Kathleen Lawler at the University of Tennessee found that individuals who offered social support to others had lower stress levels and blood pressure, as well as increased self-esteem and fewer symptoms of depression. Stephen Post at Case Western Reserve concluded helping others isn’t merely associated with better mental and physical health; it appears to create those benefits.
The evidence is overwhelming. Helping others benefits the receivers, but even more, the givers.
The Daly Telegraph