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Helping Others for Longer Life: The Beneficial Effects of Caregiving and Volunteering
2018-12-31 10:35:56
Giselle Rances

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Photo by: Photographee.eu via Shutterstock

A research study revealed that helping others may increase longevity in addition to norms, such as healthy diet, regular exercise, and positive outlook on life.The act of helping others is for everyone and not limited to caregivers only, and it can provide a positive influence for your community, for your friends, and for your family.

Longevity through Helping Others

A prospective study published in the Evolution and Human Behavior revealed that helping others contributes to the increase in human life expectancy, as the neural and hormonal system are activated in the caregiving process.The activation of the neural and hormonal system is connected in parenting and that connection suggested potential ability to promote engagement in prosocial behavior towards a person, kin or non-kin alike.Moreover, evidence and theory suggest that the “caregiving system” gives back positive effects to health and reduces the mortality of the caregiver or helper. 

Using the data in the Berlin Aging Study (BASE), researchers studied the longevity and caregiving acts of 516 individuals with ages 70 to 100 years old.The 516 participants were closely monitored in 14 sessions which include their mental and physical health, psychological functionality, and social and economic situation.BASE did not suggest that the 516 participants were caregivers, but instead compared grandparents who acted as occasional caregivers and others who have children or grandchildren but provided care to the people within their social circle.

From the 516 participants, about 80 were caregiving grandparents, while 232 were non-caregiving grandparents, and 204 were non-grandparents.Results of the study include:-    Mortality hazard among caregiving grandparents was 33 percent lower than non-caregiving grandparents.-    Lower mortality hazard among caregiving grandparents than non-grandparents and caregiving grandparents’ mortality was lower than that of either non-caregiving grandparents or non-grandparents. -    The mortality rate of the participants showed different statistics, as about 50 percent of caregiving grandparents die within 10 years and about 50 percent of non-caregiving grandparents or non-grandparents die within five years. 

Overall, analyzed data based from the Berlin Aging Study with combined other variables affecting mortality, such as functional health, gender, and age revealed that grandparents who did provide non-custodial childcare have 37-percent lower mortality hazards compared with grandparents who did not.But people should not forget that too much caregiving causes several negative effects, including mental health exhaustion and chronic physical stress.

“Helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life.A moderate level of caregiving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health, but more intense involvement causes, stress which has negative effects on physical and mental health,” stated Dr.Ralph Hertwig, director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Even though the study has been focused on older adults, individuals performing caregiving acts were rewarded by positive health benefits by helping and taking care of others from some form of satisfaction or contentment.

“It seems plausible that the development of parents’ and grandparents’ prosocial behavior toward their kin left its imprint on the human body in terms of a neural and hormonal system that subsequently laid the foundation for the evolution of cooperation and altruistic behavior towards non-kind,” said lead author of the study, Dr.Sonja Hilbrand.

Helping Others: 7 Possible Positive Effects for All Ages

Helping others can be performed in many ways and one common method is volunteering to your community.Moderate amount of caregiving efforts can give back several positive effects to a person, both mentally and physically.These benefits can combat daily challenges in life, such as depression, stress, and even allow mental stimulation or provide some sense of purpose.1.    Volunteering increases social and relationship skills.2.    Volunteering can counteract effects of anger and anxiety.3.    Volunteering can fight off depression.4.    Volunteering provides an experience that makes someone happy.5.    Volunteering boosts self-confidence.6.    Volunteering can give one experience that may be used to boost a career.7.    Volunteering may expose someone to learn valuable skills.

Determine which activity best suits you by asking yourself if you are interested to work with adults, children, or at home, are you interested to work with a team, do you prefer behind the scenes or in more visible role, how many hours are you willing to spare, and what cause are important to you.Answering these questions will narrow down where you want to start volunteering or doing caregiving work.There are many places you can volunteering opportunities, including community theaters, museums, libraries, service organizations like the Rotary Club, local animal shelters, sports teams, afterschool programs, national parks, and conservation organizations.Individuals planning to give some caregiving or volunteering should consider a goal or interest to ensure a positive experience in related activities.Some below pointers may provide purpose on why should you volunteer or join caregiving activities:-    Make the neighborhood better-    Meet different people-    Try to do something new-    Use spare time for something different-    See different ways of life or new places-    Perform activities related to interests and hobbies

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