Monday, June 21, 2021

Giving help to others may increase your life span.

An interesting analysis from Chen et al.


Social support is a key contributor to mortality risk, with effects comparable in magnitude (though opposite in direction) to smoking and obesity. Research has largely focused on either support received or support given; yet, everyday social relationships typically involve interchanges of support rather than only giving or only receiving. Using a longitudinal US national sample, this article elucidates how the balance of social support (amount of giving one does on a monthly basis relative to receiving support) relates to all-cause mortality over a 23-y follow-up period. Although correlational, one possible implication of the findings is that encouraging individuals to give support (e.g., helping others with errands) in moderation, while also being willing to accept support, may have longevity benefits.
While numerous studies exist on the benefits of social support (both receiving and giving), little research exists on how the balance between the support that individuals regularly give versus that which they receive from others relates to physical health. In a US national sample of 6,325 adults from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, participants were assessed at baseline on hours of social support given and received on a monthly basis, with all-cause mortality data collected from the National Death Index over a 23-y follow-up period. Participants who were relatively balanced in the support they gave compared to what they received had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who either disproportionately received support from others (e.g., received more hours of support than they gave each month) or disproportionately gave support to others (e.g., gave many more hours of support a month than they received). These findings applied to instrumental social support (e.g., help with transportation, childcare). Additionally, participants who gave a moderate amount of instrumental social support had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who either gave very little support or those who gave a lot of support to others. Associations were evident over and above demographic, medical, mental health, and health behavior covariates. Although results are correlational, one interpretation is that promoting a balance, in terms of the support that individuals regularly give relative to what they receive in their social relationships, may not only help to strengthen the social fabric of society but may also have potential physical health benefits.

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