People who volunteer may live longer than those who don't, as long as their reasons for volunteering are to help others rather than themselves, suggests new research published by the American Psychological Association.
This was the first time research has shown volunteers' motives can have a significant impact on life span. Volunteers lived longer than people who didn't volunteer if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer, according to the study, published online in the APA journal Health Psychology. People who said they volunteered for their own personal satisfaction had the same mortality rate four years later as people who did not volunteer at all, according to the study.Accounting for their finding, the study authors suggest that those who volunteer to help others are not as poor or stressed, and therefore do better healthwise. Which simply does not correlate with observed experience.
"It is reasonable for people to volunteer in part because of benefits to the self; however, our research implies that, ironically, should these benefits to the self become the main motive for volunteering, they may not see those benefits," said the paper's co-author, Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis, MA.Not to worry, guys. The evolutionary psychology crackpots will soon come up with a reason why putting strangers first benefits one’s selfish genes.
Maybe we can think up such a reason ourselves: Volunteering among strangers increases the chances of having children with them, which prevents inbreeding. There. That settles it. That’s science. Well, “science” actually. The health effects of sincere voluntary service are just fact.