HEALTHY LIVING
01/30/2014 08:16 am ET | Updated Jan 30, 2014

High Well-Being Could Make You More Altruistic

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High levels of well-being in a city or region aren't just good for the health and happiness of the residents. A new Psychological Science study suggests it could also promote altruistic acts -- at least in the form of kidney donations.

To evaluate the link between altruism and well-being, researchers from Georgetown University looked at non-directed kidney donation -- donating a kidney to someone you aren't related to and don't even know -- which they considered to be the epitome of an altruistic act.

The researchers looked at data on this kind of kidney donation from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, and compared that with data on well-being in the United States from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The researchers found that states that had higher per capita kidney donation rates were also the states with higher well-being.

Plus, the researchers found that the association held true even when looking at broader regions (and not just specific states), and when looking at just one specific year (2010).

"You'd be amazed by the responses some donors get from those who learn about their donation -- people who see them as weird or even 'crazy' for doing something so far outside the norm as giving away an internal organ to a stranger," study researcher Abigail Marsh said in a statement. "These data help to show that there are understandable, normal psychological mechanisms that lead to this kind of behavior, uncommon as it is."

Altruism doesn't just help others -- research shows that it can also benefit the person who is giving back. Benefits include decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, greater happiness at work and even a lower risk of premature death.

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