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For Elderly Giving is Living

Author: Daniel DeNoon, Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Date Published:
Publisher: WebMD Medical News

Seniors Who Help Others – Financially or Emotionally – Live Longer

November 15, 2002 - It really is better to give than to receive. Helping others - but not getting help from others - lowers the risk of death for elderly people.

The finding comes from a University of Michigan study. Researchers Stephanie L. Brown, PhD, and colleagues looked at 423 married couples in which the husband was at least 65 years old. Over the five-year study period, 134 of these people died.

Those who said they gave no emotional or financial support to relatives, neighbors, or friends were twice as likely to die.

"Making a contribution to the lives of other people may help to extend our own lives," Brown says in a news release.

About three out of four people in the study said they gave at least some help to other without pay. These people tended to live longer. But getting help from others didn't help people live longer.

"These findings suggest that it isn't what we get from relationships that makes contact with others so beneficial - it's what we give," Brown says.

The study suggests that care for elderly people should shift from making them feel supported to supporting them in helping others.

The findings are scheduled for publication in the journal Psychological Science.

Sources: Psychological Science, advance copy of study provided by the University of Michigan - News release, University of Michigan.