Sharing the wealth can not just boost your mood, it might also benefit your health, according to research out of the University of British Columbia.
“What we’ve found is some of the strongest evidence to date that spending money on others can lead to significant improvements in physical health,” said Ashley Whillans, PhD student and public scholar at UBC and author of the study.
“This is one of the first studies really showing clinically significant outcomes as a result of spending money on others.”
The researchers recruited 128 people aged 65-and-older diagnosed with high blood pressure to spend money on others over the course of a six-week study.
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“What we found is…the older adults diagnosed with high blood pressure who spent money on others showed significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over the course of the study,” said Whillans.
“These results were almost at the same magnitude as starting a new exercise program.”
In addition to their study, the UBC researchers analyzed data of 186 older adults with high blood pressure collected for the Midlife in the US Study (MIDUS). That data showed that “the more money people spent on others, the lower their blood pressure was two years later.”
“We find again evidence that spending money on others seems to be linked to greater heart health in this totally different sample,” Whillans said.
Researchers found evidence that the positive effect of giving can “buffer” against the effects of stress, and have a positive impact on blood pressure. In addition, researchers found that the greatest benefit was felt by those who spent the money on people they are close to.
What needs to be explored next is what benefit prosocial behaviour such as donating money could have on people outside this specific set of conditions, Whillans added.
The study, Is spending money on others good for your heart? will be published next month in the journal Health Psychology.