Being generous may help you live longer

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The act of giving and receiving increases well-being: the recipient benefits directly from the gift, and the giver benefits indirectly through emotional satisfaction.

In a new study, researchers found that those who share more also live longer.

They found a strong link between a society’s generosity and the average life expectancy of its members.

They conclude that people are living longer in societies whose members support each other with resources.

The research was conducted by a team at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

The researchers used data for 34 countries from the National Transfer Accounts project.

For all countries, state and private transfer payments received and given by each individual over his or her lifetime are added up and presented in relation to lifetime income.

Sub-Saharan African countries such as Senegal share the lowest percentage of their lifetime income and have the highest mortality rate of all the countries studied.

The team found those who share little die earlier. Although South Africa is economically more developed than other African countries, few resources are redistributed; here too, the mortality rate is relatively high.

In these countries, the mortality rate of children and young people up to the age of 20 is also higher than in the other countries studied.

The analyses suggest that redistribution influences the mortality rate of a country, regardless of the per capita gross domestic product.

Societies in Western European countries and Japan transfer a lot to the youngest and the oldest and mortality rates are low. The countries studied in South America also have high transfer payments.

There, people share more than 60 percent of their average life income with others.

The mortality rates are lower than in sub-Saharan Africa but higher than those of Western Europe, Australia, Japan and Taiwan.

In France and Japan, the two countries with the lowest mortality rates of all the countries studied, an average citizen shares between 68% and 69% of their lifetime income.

Here, the risk of dying in the coming year is only half as high for people over 65 as in China or Turkey, where between 44% and 48% of lifetime income is redistributed.

“What I find particularly interesting is that the relationship between generosity and lifetime income that we described does not depend on whether the benefits come from the state or from the wider family,” says Fanny Kluge. Both of these factors cause the population to live longer compared to societies with fewer transfer payments.

The authors of the study are Fanny Kluge and Tobias Vogt.

The study is published in PNAS.

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