The gift of giving reaps healthy rewards

Christmas may be the season for giving, but research shows becoming more giving year round can significantly boost your health and wellbeing. Amidst the sometimes stressful frenzy of Christmas shopping, the idea that giving to others can be good for your health and happiness can feel a bit of a stretch. But a growing body of scientific research shows exactly that. It's now clear that doing good for others without any expectation of reward – known as behaving altruistically – can give you better physical and mental health and even help you live longer. As US-based altruism and health researcher Stephen G. Post puts it: "A remarkable fact is that giving, even in later years, can delay death. The impact of giving is just as significant as not smoking and avoiding obesity." Indeed one study of 2025 older residents of California found those who volunteered for two or more organisations had a 44 per cent reduction in mortality over five years, even after accounting for factors like differences in prior health status. And yes, even giving in a more material sense can boost your wellbeing – although not as much as "hands on", face-to-face helping. Sydney positive psychology expert Dr Tony Grant says most of the studies have focused on behaviours like volunteering or practising acts of kindness, but some have looked at spending. These have shown those who spent money on others or on a charity are happier than those who spent on themselves. "Part of the problem is that [at Christmas], we get sucked into commercial rituals that have become completely divorced from any sort of intrinsic...
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