, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 66-77

Altruism, happiness, and health: it’s good to be good

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Abstract

Altruistic (other-regarding) emotions and behaviors are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity. This article presents a summary and assessment of existing research data on altruism and its relation to mental and physical health. It suggests several complimentary interpretive frameworks, including evolutionary biology, physiological models, and positive psychology. Potential public health implications of this research are discussed, as well as directions for future studies. The article concludes, with some caveats, that a strong correlation exists between the well-being, happiness, health, and longevity of people who are emotionally and behaviorally compassionate, so long as they are not overwhelmed by helping tasks.

The author wishes to acknowledge the support of the John Templeton Foundation; the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love—Altruism, Compassion, Service; and the Ford Foundation.