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

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.

Key words

kindness altruism well-being happiness health public health 

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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Bioethics, School of MedicineCase Western Reserve UniversityCleveland, OhioUSA

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