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Copyright: ©2007 Rusty Wright
GIVING CAN IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH; SCIENCE SAYS SO
By: Rusty Wright
Want happiness and fulfillment in life? Then practice giving, advises an influential medical professor.
“It really is good to be good,” claims Stephen Post, PhD., professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “Science says it is so.”
Post and coauthor Jill Neimark present evidence in their recent book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People. As head of an institute supported by philanthropist Sir John Templeton, Post has funded “over fifty studies [related to giving] at forty-four major universities.” He’s convinced that giving is essential for optimum physical and mental health in a fragmented society.
Post says research has produced remarkable findings: “Giving protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease.” If pharmaceutical companies could charge for giving, we might see ads for “Give Back” instead of “Prozac,” he speculates. One program, “Rx: Volunteer,” has some California HMO physicians giving volunteerism “prescriptions” to their Medicare patients.
Post and Neimark say around 500 scientific studies demonstrate that unselfish love can enhance health. For instance, Paul Wink, a Wellesley College psychologist, studied University of California Berkeley data that followed about two hundred people every decade since the 1920s. Giving during high school correlated with good mental and physical health across life spans. Givers experienced these benefits regardless of the warmth of their families, he found.
Other research says that giving correlates with lower teen depression and suicide risk and with lower depression among the elderly. Studies at Stanford and elsewhere found links between frequent volunteering and delaying death. Post says giving even trumps receiving when it comes to reducing mortality.
Give more; enjoy life and live longer? Maybe, as Jesus famously said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Illustrations abound of giving’s personal benefits. Millard Fuller, a millionaire, gave away much of his wealth at age thirty. He and his wife, Linda, sold their business and affiliated with Koinonia Farm, a Georgia Christian community. They built houses in Zaire and then founded Habitat for Humanity in 1976 to help needy people build affordable homes. Fuller’s goal was “to eliminate poverty housing from the face of the earth. Get rid of shacks!”
Today Habitat volunteers have constructed over 225,000 houses, helping over a million people in over 3,000 communities worldwide. Countless volunteers attest to the personal satisfaction their involvement brings.
Post and Neimark relate an intriguing tale of a former Playboy model who has devoted her life to helping poor kids in Haiti. Susan Scott Krabacher’s childhood helped her connect with the hurting children she now serves. Sexual abuse, her mother’s psychiatric breakdown, multiple foster homes, and her brother’s suicide took their emotional toll. In her late teens, she became a Playboy centerfold and moved into the Playboy mansion.
Ten years of playing mixed with depression. Eventually she reconnected with the faith of her youth. Observing Haiti’s poverty prompted her to learn more of the biblical take on life. The foundation she and her husband started runs three orphanages for 2,300 children. “I work long hours,” Krabacher notes, “put up with unbelievable sacrifice, bury too many children, and get no compensation but love, which is the greatest freedom you can know and the most important thing in the world.”
Post would agree. Do you desire happiness, love, safety, security, loyal friends, true connection, or a benevolent and hopeful world? He has one answer: Give. You’ll be happier, healthier, and live longer. “Love cures,” wrote the esteemed psychiatrist Karl Menninger. It cures “both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer with Probe.org who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.
"Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org
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