Donating money or buying gifts for loved ones can lower blood pressure 'as much as medication'
ISLAMABAD: Every day, we are confronted with choices about how to spend our money. Whether it’s thinking about picking up the tab at a group meal or when a charity calls asking for a donation we are faced with the decision to behave generously or not.
Research suggests that spending money on others can improve happiness, but can it also improve your physical health? There is some evidence that donating time can improve health, but no one has looked at whether donating money has the same effect.University of British Columbia decided to conduct an experiment to find out if spending money on others could lower blood pressure. Findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.
Reaping the rewards:
Spending money on others can boost your health by lowering blood pressure. Helpful people might be healthier.
Research published in 1999 revealed a link between helping others and physical health. In the study, adults aged 55 and older reported how many organizations they helped, how many hours they spent volunteering, and then underwent a physical exam.
Researchers controlled for several factors, including how healthy participants were when the study began and their available social support. After five years, the adults who reported providing more help to others were 44 per cent more likely to be alive.
In a more recent study, researchers measured the blood pressure of volunteers once and then again after four years. They found older adults who volunteered at least four hours per week in the 12 months prior to the first blood pressure measurement were less likely to develop the condition four years later.
Other studies suggest volunteering helps to buffer against stress and prevents against declines in areas such as walking speed and physical strength.
Research has shown that the physical act of volunteering has a positive effect on the body, preventing against declines in areas such as walking speed and physical strength
It might seem simple helping is good for your health.
But so far, most research studying the health benefits of helping have been co-relational. These studies cannot determine whether helping others actually causes improvements in physical health or just happens to be related to it.
Also, most research has focused on the health benefits of volunteering one time.
As it turns out, people think about time and money in vastly different ways. For example, whereas thinking about time leads people to prioritise social connections, thinking about money can lead people to distance themselves from others.
It remains unclear whether the benefits of generosity extend to donating money.
Our latest work provides the first empirical evidence that it might have implications for physical health.
Among people who were previously diagnosed with high blood pressure, spending money on others significantly reduced their blood pressure over the course of the study
Can spending money on others lower blood pressure?
Researchers gave 128 older adults (ages 65-85) US$40 a week for three weeks.
Half of the participants were randomly assigned to spend the money on themselves and half were told to spend it on others. They told participants to spend their $40 payment all in one day and to save the receipts from the purchases they had made. Later researchers measured participants blood pressure before, during, and after they spent their study payments.
They chose to examine blood pressure in this study because we can measure it reliably in the lab, and because high blood pressure is a significant health outcome chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) is responsible for 7.5 million premature deaths each year.
What did they find?
Among people who were previously diagnosed with high blood pressure, spending money on others significantly reduced their blood pressure over the course of the study.
But those with high blood pressure who spent money on themselves saw no such change during the study.