Is there a link between altruistic behaviors and better health? Are generous people healthier than the rest of the population? Can a person's attitude and behavior influence their physical and mental health?

Over the last few decades, philosophers, researchers, psychologists, spiritual seekers and religious leaders have studied people and groups performing acts of altruism to determine what benefits the giver receives for their benevolent actions.

They realized human nature is multi-faceted. The data demonstrated connections between living a loving, generous life and living a happier, healthier life.

People have very different "facets" to share, and when they share them out of kindness to help someone else, good things transpire for the generous, giving people.


"Kind people are the best kind of people“ – Unknown


The Altruist Way of Life, Love and Happiness.

Empathy and altruism go hand in hand. Altruistic people never act to hurt others because they are moved by the desire to benefit another person's well-being. They don't feed feelings like jealousy but rejoice for others' happiness and successes.

They inspire and ignite everyone around them to grow and follow their dreams. Altruistic people look for opportunities to contribute and support others rather than undermine and ruin another person's life.

Altruism is an unselfish, compassionate concern for another person's well-being coupled with a genuine desire to help that person reach a better state of life and health. It is acting in the belief that your actions will be able to make a difference in someone's life for no other reason than you care.

It is human nature (most humans) to feel compassion and empathy towards the people you are closest to when you can understand someone else's situation (empathize) and know how you would feel if you were in their shoes, you are drawn to help them.

7 Characteristics of Altruists:

  1. altruistic people put others first 

  2. They are open-minded

  3. they are confident and prone to forgiveness-:

  4. they are proactive

  5. altruistic people feel good and are happy after helping others

  6. they worry about how their actions will influence other's lives

  7. they know how to take care of themselves

5 benefits of altruistic behavior:

  1. reduced aggression

  2. better physical health

  3. better mental health

  4. longevity

  5. improved well-being


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5 Ways Altruism Can Boost the Total Well-being of  Your Employees & Organization 

  1. It is A True Employee Motivater - When employees are encouraged to give back they feel a sense of self-worth and feel that what they are doing really matters.

    (Pro TIP: survey your team to learn what they are passionate about)

  2. it promotes employee total well-being - When people give back and help others they experience the so-called "helper's high" and this feeling can help reduce stress and create happiness.

  3. it helps to build teamwork - When employees rally together towards a like cause or charity it improves employee morale and company culture.

  4. it creates an intrinsic way to take a break - Employees really need to a break during the day, but while we are all working more from home we just don't do it enough. When employees are given the opportunity to participate in a cause during work hours, their workplace means more to them than just cranking out the work.

  5. it helps decrease turnover - when your team members are happy & motivated they are more likely to stay put and not join the "great resignation"—But if your organization doesn't rally around some cause or charity it could lead to a higher turnover.

    (Pro TIP: this is a high priority for Millennials, infact they value  altruism in a company's culture just as much as any other employee benefit.)


Humans are altruistic in different ways throughout their life. One of the more consistent reasons is the intrinsic nature of some people to be more compassionate and have more empathy than others.

Connecting the Dots – Altruism to Better Mental and Physical Health.

In the early 1970s, acts of altruism were named "helper therapy" because researchers thought that people helping people, as in the AA's 12-step program, were far less likely to relapse if they spent time helping others.

When conducting a study on this thought, they found that recovering alcoholics engaged in helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety were significantly less likely to relapse in the year following treatment.

Among those who helped other alcoholics (8 percent of the study population), 40 percent avoided alcohol in the year following treatment, compared to 22 percent of those unengaged in helping others to recover.

Individuals struggling with addiction that engage in helping other addicts have a renewed sense of purpose which reduces levels of despair and depression, which are linked to mortality.

When studying a group of cardiac patients who volunteered to meet with new cardiac patients after surgery, the volunteers had reduced levels of anxiety and fear and increased optimism about life.

Data from the above research studies indicate a strong association between altruism and health and well-being. Altruism can activate pleasure centers in the brain, effectively canceling out negativity.

other health perks altruistic personalities benefit from include:

  • stress relief

  • contentment

  • increased life expectancy

  • less lonely

When assessing the protective factor of altruism in people, controlled data analysis indicated that the protective effects of volunteering were strongest among those volunteering for one organization or less than forty hours and those lacking other social supports.

Moderate amounts of volunteerism were associated with lowered risk of death, and simply adding the volunteering role was protective against viruses and harmful negative emotions.

Altruism results in more profound and more positive social interaction, a distraction from personal problems and the anxiety of self-preoccupation, and enhanced meaning and purpose as related to well-being. It is a condition that can bring positive outcomes to givers and receivers.

It also creates a more active lifestyle that counters isolation and passivity and increases the presence of positive emotions such as kindness and compassion.

We know that negative emotional responses, such as those that respond to fight or flight, increase our susceptibility to disease and sickness.

negative emotions:

  • fear

  • anxiety

  • resentment/bitterness

  • anger

  • unforgiveness

  • depression

  • loss of purpose

  • anger

  • Boredom

Positive emotions enhance health by pushing aside the negative ones. By displacing harmful negative emotional states, it is plausible to say that altruism improves mental and physical health.

The thought that there is a connection between a kindly, generous life, well-being, happiness, and health has been understood by every person who has ever said, "Go do someone some good today" or "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

The connection between altruism and health has been proven time and again. Perhaps it could be an addition to a doctor's prescription repertoire.

Doctors script: Volunteer your service 2 hours per week for life. While doing so, practice being kind, compassionate and charitable. If symptoms continue, increase volunteer hours by 1 hour the first week and 1.5 hours the following weeks. Good luck!


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When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.

Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you.  Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.

The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
following issues:

• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Grief
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!


References

Cherry, K. (2022, July 17). What Is Altruism? Retrieved from Verywell Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-altruism-2794828

Hendrick, C. &. (1986). A theory and method of love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 50, 392-402: 

Yilu Wang, J. G. (2019). Altruistic behaviors relieve physical pain. PNAS, 117 (2) 950-958. Retrieved from:https://www.pnas.org/doi/full/10.1073/pnas.1911861117

Jones, H (2022, Jan 28.). The Link Between Altruism and Health. Retrieved from TreatnHeal:: https://www.treatnheal.com/articles/the-link-between-altruism-and-health/#:~:text=Combined%20with%20the%20mental%20health%20benefits%2C%20being%20altruistic,susceptible%20to%20mental%20health%20issues%20such%20as%20depression.

S.G., P. (2005). Altruism, happiness, and health: it's good to be good. International journal of behavioral medicine, 12(2), 66-77. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15901215/