While it’s no secret giving to others makes us feel good, a new study out of UBC suggests it might also have positive health benefits.
The study found people with high blood pressure who spent money on others showed lower blood pressure afterwards. Those who consistently spent money on others over a three week period had healthier hearts.
In fact, the effects were comparable to treatments like antihypertensive medication or exercise.
While the researchers aren’t sure what causes our bodies to react this way, they think it could be a natural stress reliever.
“One potential mechanism that we see evidence for in our study – and other research supports that – is this idea that helping others can protect us from the negative effects of stress on health,” head researcher Ashley Whillans told Vancity Buzz.
Certain study participants with high blood pressure were asked to spend money only on themselves, and while it didn’t negatively affect their health, there was simply no improvement at all.
“In our study, there were no negative impacts on spending on yourself. It just doesn’t do anything for your physical health,” said Whillans.
With the holiday season just around the corner, could that mean Christmas shopping could actually be good for your health? Whillans thinks it’s possible.
“I guess from this evidence it would show that one way of reducing the stress that comes along with Christmas might be using the dollars in our wallets to be generous.”
Armed with this information, Whillans plans to launch another study to find out if volunteering your time has the same positive effect on your physical health as spending money on others does.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll see some evidence that using time to help others has similar benefits.”
A total of 259 older adults with high blood pressure participated in the study and it will be published in the Journal Health Psychology in January.