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Helping others improves health

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 8 months ago

A recent study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine suggests that helping others can have a positive impact on our health. The study found that giving support to family and friends, as well as engaging in formal volunteering, is linked to lower levels of interleukin 6, a marker of inflammation. Chronic inflammation, which can lead to serious health issues, is a significant factor in many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The study's findings are not surprising, as previous research has also linked social integration and support to immune response and inflammation levels. People who have strong social connections and spend time with loved ones tend to have better immune responses and lower levels of inflammation. However, it's worth noting that the benefits of social integration may be diminished if individuals are not also providing support to others. The study suggests that there is a balance to be struck between receiving support and giving support.

Other studies have also shown a link between acts of kindness and reduced inflammation. For example, a study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles found that older women who wrote life advice for younger generations had reduced expression of pro-inflammatory genes in their blood cells. Similarly, a study conducted at a high school in Canada found that students who volunteered to help younger children had significantly lower levels of interleukin 6 compared to those who did not volunteer.

The link between kindness and reduced inflammation may be due to the stress-reducing effects of helping others. Chronic stress is a significant predictor of chronic inflammation, and caregiving behaviors have been found to reduce stress levels. When we care for others, certain areas of the brain associated with reward and reinforcement are activated, while activity in the fear center decreases. This has been linked to reduced inflammation and stress levels.

While these findings suggest that helping others can have a positive impact on our health, it's important to strike a balance and not neglect ourselves in the process. Overwhelming caregiving responsibilities have been associated with higher mortality rates. Therefore, it's crucial to find the optimal dosage of kindness and ensure that self-care is also prioritized.

In conclusion, the growing body of evidence suggests that acts of kindness and support can have a positive impact on our health by reducing chronic inflammation. Engaging in activities that help others, such as volunteering or providing support to family and friends, can potentially ward off serious illnesses. However, it's important to maintain a balance and not neglect our own well-being in the process.

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