As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolds, one of our core responses is to be concerned about our own well-being and those of our loved ones. Yet research tells us that expanding our web of care further might not only be beneficial to those we reach out to, but also to ourselves!
Prosocial behavior, or the intent to benefit others, is a social behavior that benefits other people or society as a whole such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering. Research is increasingly showcasing how prosocial behaviour or undertaking acts of care have a positive impact on our overall health, happiness and resilience. Below we have listed some of this research for you.
- Mitigates negative effects of stress: A study from 2015 shows how ‘on a given day, prosocial behavior moderated the effects of stress on positive affect, negative affect, and overall mental health. Findings suggest that affiliative behavior may be an important component of coping with stress and indicate that engaging in prosocial behavior might be an effective strategy for reducing the impact of stress on emotional functioning’.
- Improves health parameters across ages: Research has shown that volunteering has many positive effects on multiple health parameters – across ages. While one research on older adults (those more than 50) has shown that those who had volunteered at least 200 hours in the 12 months prior to baseline were less likely to develop hypertension. Another research conducted with adolescents to evaluate the effect of volunteering on risk factors for cardiovascular disease, showed that those who increased the most in empathy and altruistic behaviors, and who decreased the most in negative mood, also showed the greatest decreases in cardiovascular risk over time.
- Increases life satisfaction: An experiment to test the effects of acts of kindness and acts of novelty on life satisfaction randomly assigned people to perform either acts of kindness, acts of novelty, or no acts on a daily basis for 10 days. Their life satisfaction was measured before and after the 10-day experiment. As expected, performing acts of kindness or acts of novelty resulted in an increase in life satisfaction.
- Supports meaning-making, self-worth and esteem: Research showed that people who engaged in prosocial behaviour like volunteering or spending money to benefit others reported experiencing greater meaning in their lives alongside showing increased self-worth and self-esteem as a result of the activities.
- Improved longevity: People who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay. People who volunteer may live longer than those who don’t, as long as their reasons for volunteering are to help others rather than themselves, suggests some research.
To explore how you can begin to expand your web of care, listen to our podcast episodes on connection and care. Look at our resources where we have listed people and organisations you can donate to and support during these times. You can also join our social media for updates on more ideas and share any information and ideas that you might have!