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New Study Shows Giving Is Better Than Receiving

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New Study Shows that Giving Is Better than Receiving

It increases the giver's longevity too, at least when it comes to giving social support. But there's evidence that being on the receiving end of charity isn't always such a blessing.

Virtually everyone person has given social support to another person, from helping an elderly neighbor with shopping or driving a friend to a doctor's appointment, to more ongoing assistance, such as delivering meals or caring for a chronically ill family member. Intuitively we believe helping makes the other person feel good. New research in the July issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the American Psychological Society, contradicts this intuition by showing that being in a position to need social support is detrimental to the person receiving it.

According to the report, "depending on other people for support can cause guilt and anxiety" for the receiver. The authors, Stephanie L. Brown, Randolph M. Nesse and Amiram Vinokar of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan and Dylan M. Smith of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan and VA Health Services Health Services Center for Excellence, discuss the negative effects the receiver experiences due to what is thought to be a selfless act on the part of the provider.

The authors suggest that their research supports the hypothesis that providing social support is extremely beneficial to the provider. The provider experiences "reduced stress and improved health." The authors state that the "sense of meaning, purpose, belonging and mattering" that are acquired during, say volunteering, leads to increased happiness and decreased depression. The positive effects of providing social support span improvement in both physical and mental health. Most importantly, the study supports the hypothesis that providing social support promotes longevity for the provider.

This study is the first of its kind, and the authors caution against reversing our views relating to giving and receiving just yet. This is a new question in need of much research.

For more information contact Brown at or visit APS Media Center at for a complete copy of the report.

Psychological Science is ranked among the top 10 general psychology journals for impact by the Institute for Scientific Information. The American Psychological Society represents psychologists advocating science-based research in the public's interest.

© Health News 2003 All Rights Reserved.

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