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Altruism and HealthPerspectives from Empirical Research$
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Stephen G. Post

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195182910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182910.001.0001

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Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support

Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support

(p.33) 2 Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support
Altruism and Health

Carolyn Schwartz

Oxford University Press

Although the benefits of giving support have long been acknowledged among spiritual and religious texts as a key to living well, the predominant focus in psychological research on social support has been on the benefits one enjoys when one receives social support. There is, however, emerging evidence that giving support to others provides as much or perhaps more reward to the giver than to the recipient. Based on the results of two studies, this chapter hypothesizes that altruistic social-interest behaviours enhance subjective well-being for both healthy and chronically ill adults. The first study focused on chronically ill patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). It examined the health implications of receiving training in coping strategies accompanied by monthly telephone support versus simply receiving fifteen-minute phone calls from trained peer supporters (who also had MS) once a month for a year. Data collected from the five peer supporters revealed that they (the givers) reported improvements on more outcomes than the receivers and that the effect from the size of these changes was larger for the givers than for the supported patients. The second study used previously collected data on a large stratified sample of Presbyterians in order to examine the hypothesis within a healthy and much larger cohort. Data showed that giving help was a more important indicator of better mental health than receiving it.

Keywords:   altruistic behaviour, multiple sclerosis patients, chronically ill, well-being, mental health

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