A psychology professor who studies human happiness told an international conference last week that charitable giving not only makes people feel better but can lower their blood pressure, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.
Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia discussed her research at a London meeting on "nudging," a theory that psychological insights into human behavior can be used to steer people, without coercion, into making better decisions. She cited experiments in which subjects were given money and either told to spend it on themselves or to spend it on others.
Those who gave the money away were happier afterward — a result reached in both Canada and Uganda, suggesting the emotional reward may be intrinsic rather than a function of culture or financial status, Ms. Dunn said. The studies also found that the donors' blood pressure was lower after giving, while that of those who spent the money on themselves did not change. Giving is "not just heartwarming, it may be quite literally good for our hearts," she said.