HEALTHY LIVING
08/22/2013 08:52 am ET

Happiness Increases From Giving When There's A Social Connection, Study Shows

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Giving makes us feel happy, and giving to someone we actually know makes us even happier, a new study suggests.

New research published in the Journal of Happiness and Development shows that social giving -- where you're giving to a person who you know, or your giving leads to a social connection -- seems to foster more emotional benefits than giving without the social aspect.

"While additional factors other than social connection likely influence the happiness gained from pro-social spending, our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings," the team concludes.

The study included three different experiments. For one of them, 68 young men and women were surveyed on their general levels of happiness. Then, they were shown an ad for a real charity called ACTS, which helps bring fresh water to African communities; they were told that other people in the past who were participating in the study had donated to ACTS after seeing the ad. Then, the participants were asked if they wanted to donate also.

However, some of the participants were randomly assigned to the "high-social connection" condition, where the research assistant conducting the study told them that they had a friend who was part of ACTS who had just gotten back from Africa, and that the money was being raised on the friend's behalf. The other participants, however, were not informed of this personal connection, and were simply asked if they wanted to donate.

Then, the researchers had all the study participants report their life satisfaction, happiness and positive and negative affect using different scales.

They found that even though the amount of money donated didn't really differ between the two groups (participants in groups gave about $5), the participants who were told of the research assistant's personal connection ACTS experienced greater happiness in association with giving.

"We found that larger donations were associated with higher well-being ratings in the high social connection condition, but not in the low social connection condition," the researchers wrote in the study. "As predicted, the link between giving and subsequent happiness was strongest when participants gave the donation directly to someone who was personally connected to the charity."

For some health benefits of gratitude, click through the slideshow below.

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