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19 Healthy Reasons To Help Others

First Posted: 07/28/2011 8:15 am   Updated: 09/27/2011 5:12 am

By Robert A. Barnett for iVillage.com

If you see someone who is drowning and throw him a rope, he gets a benefit, no question about it. But you might, too. Your body might flood with feel-good chemicals that have a deep evolutionary heritage. You might get a little extra buffer from life’s stresses. Your heart might beat a little healthier. Your immune system might perk up. Your mood might lift.

Do this kind of neighborly thing on a regular basis and, studies suggest, you may live longer. There’s only one caveat: “You have to genuinely care,” says Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University in New York.

Want to get the “giver’s glow?” Read on.

Helpers Live Longer
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"We consistently find that volunteering and helping behavior is associated with a reduced risk of mortality," says Brown. "We see this over and over again in prospective studies that control for other variables, such as baseline health and gender."

For example, a study in Detroit looked at 423 married couples over age 65. They were asked if they helped anyone other than each other in the previous year with transportation, errands, shopping, housework, childcare or other tasks. Those who did were about half as likely to die over the next five years than those who didn't. "Now," says Brown, "we need to find out why and how."

She and fellow researchers have already uncovered a few clues.

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