Be nice. Your life might just depend on it.
Older people who took care of others lived longer than seniors who were less helpful, a recent study found. It was one of the first inquiries to focus on people who give care rather than get it.
Helping other people just might help you live longer too.
The study, which began in 1987, surveyed 423 married couples living near Detroit. At the beginning of the project, husbands were all 65 years of age or older. Wives were slightly younger. After 5 years, 134 participants had died.
When researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor recently looked at surveys taken during the study, they found some interesting patterns.
Participants were half as likely to die during the course of the study if they regularly helped friends, relatives, and neighbors with tasks like errands and housework. People who listened closely and lovingly to their husbands and wives survived longer, too.
It’s not clear whether being helpful led to a longer life or whether healthier people were more likely to offer help.
Still, it might make sense to get in the habit of helping others. It may be best for you, too, in the long run.—E. Sohn
Bower, Bruce. 2003. Giving aid, staying alive: Elderly helpers have longevity advantage. Science News 164(July 26):51-52. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/20030726/fob2.asp .