Altruism and Health

Altruism and Health : Perspectives from Empirical Research

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Does a kindly, charitable interest in others have health benefits for the agent, particularly when coupled with helping behaviours? Although the answer remains unclear, researchers have established that there is an association between generous emotions, helping behaviour, and longevity. Increasingly, emotional states and their related behaviours are being studied by mainstream scientists in relation to health promotion and disease prevention. If helping affect or behaviour can be linked with health and longevity, there are significant implications for how we think about human nature and prosperity. Although studies show that those who are physically or psychologically overwhelmed by the needs of others do experience a stressful burden that can have significant negative health consequences, little attention has been given to whether there are health benefits from helping behaviour that is fulfilling, not overwhelming. In this book, Stephen Post brings together distinguished researchers from basic science to address this question in objective terms. The book provides heuristic models, from evolution and neuroscience, to explain the association between altruism and health, and examines potential public health and practical implications of the existing data.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 480 pages
  • 154.9 x 236.2 x 33mm | 771.12g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 7 line illustrations
  • 019518291X
  • 9780195182910
  • 2,043,352

Review quote

"Do people who act generously and have kindly emotions reap benefits to themselves? Does this happen even though gaining returns does not motivate their altruistic feelings and behaviors? The path breaking essays in this book answer these questions, with appropriate qualifications, in the affirmative. Better psychological and physical health and a longer life are the main fruits that accrue to the altruistic person. This is true for youth, adults, and the elderly, as well as for those who are already ill. This book inaugurates a new science of giving. It uncovers the realities behind the ancient truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. It is a marvelous resource for health care providers, educators, social scientists, and the inquiring general reader."--Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Emeritus"It is hard to imagine a phenotype of greater importance to the future of humanity than that of the dynamic interplay, within various populations, of altruism and narcissism. Stephen Post should be congratulated for bringing together experts on that subject from an amazing diversity of disciplines--from the neuroendocrinology of species of voles to the care of HIV/AIDS patients. The overall picture that emerges is that it is not merely better to give than to receive from a moral point of view; it may also be a better strategy for the maintenance of health and well being for the altruistic giver and, given certain ecologies, may perhaps enhance the reproductive fitness of a population." --George M. Martin, Professor of Pathology Emeritus, Director Emeritus, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Washington"This collection sheds important light on the relationship between altruistic love and physical and emotional healing. Altruism and Health is a welcome and original addition to the literature. It is clearly written and accessible to both serious students of the effects of altruism, love, and healing, and to the general public. It will be welcomed by not only the general reader, but also by ministers, counselors, and other professional healers. It is certain to become a valuable reference work. I highly recommend it." --Samuel P. Oliner, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt State University, and Director, Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute"Socrates claimed famously that one never loses by doing the right thing. Stephen Post and his contributors claim, a little less boldly, that at least the generous will, probably, stay healthy--and, improving on Socrates, they support this claim with careful empirical science, impressive for its comprehensive detail. Here ethics and religion join science and enjoin us to be more caring and healthy. A seminal work, with an urgent message."--Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State University"[Post's] stated purpose is 'merely to help open the door to a serious research assessment.' He successfully does this by collecting research reports and reviews by experts drawn from a genuinely impressive array of disciplines. Most of these contributions are of a very high quality. As a result, anyone with any curiousity about possible links between altruism and health (or related concepts) will find much to interest and educate them."--The Psychologist "Do people who act generously and have kindly emotions reap benefits to themselves? Does this happen even though gaining returns does not motivate their altruistic feelings and behaviors? The path breaking essays in this book answer these questions, with appropriate qualifications, in the affirmative. Better psychological and physical health and a longer life are the main fruits that accrue to the altruistic person. This is true for youth, adults, and the elderly, as well as for those who are already ill. This book inaugurates a new science of giving. It uncovers the realities behind the ancient truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. It is a marvelous resource for health care providers, educators, social scientists, and the inquiring general reader."--Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Emeritus"It is hard to imagine a phenotype of greater importance to the future of humanity than that of the dynamic interplay, within various populations, of altruism and narcissism. Stephen Post should be congratulated for bringing together experts on that subject from an amazing diversity of disciplines--from the neuroendocrinology of species of voles to the care of HIV/AIDS patients. The overall picture that emerges is that it is not merely better to give than to receive from a moral point of view; it may also be a better strategy for the maintenance of health and well being for the altruistic giver and, given certain ecologies, may perhaps enhance the reproductive fitness of a population." --George M. Martin, Professor of Pathology Emeritus, Director Emeritus, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Washington"This collection sheds important light on the relationship between altruistic love and physical and emotional healing. Altruism and Health is a welcome and original addition to the literature. It is clearly written and accessible to both serious students of the effects of altruism, love, and healing, and to the general public. It will be welcomed by not only the general reader, but also by ministers, counselors, and other professional healers. It is certain to become a valuable reference work. I highly recommend it." --Samuel P. Oliner, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt State University, and Director, Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute"Socrates claimed famously that one never loses by doing the right thing. Stephen Post and his contributors claim, a little less boldly, that at least the generous will, probably, stay healthy--and, improving on Socrates, they support this claim with careful empirical science, impressive for its comprehensive detail. Here ethics and religion join science and enjoin us to be more caring and healthy. A seminal work, with an urgent message."--Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State University"[Post's] stated purpose is 'merely to help open the door to a serious research assessment.' He successfully does this by collecting research reports and reviews by experts drawn from a genuinely impressive array of disciplines. Most of these contributions are of a very high quality. As a result, anyone with any curiousity about possible links between altruism and health (or related concepts) will find much to interest and educate them."--The Psychologist "Do people who act generously and have kindly emotions reap benefits to themselves? Does this happen even though gaining returns does not motivate their altruistic feelings and behaviors? The path breaking essays in this book answer these questions, with appropriate qualifications, in the affirmative. Better psychological and physical health and a longer life are the main fruits that accrue to the altruistic person. This is true for youth, adults, and the elderly, as well as for those who are already ill. This book inaugurates a new science of giving. It uncovers the realities behind the ancient truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. It is a marvelous resource for health care providers, educators, social scientists, and the inquiring general reader."--Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Emeritus "It is hard to imagine a phenotype of greater importance to the future of humanity than that of the dynamic interplay, within various populations, of altruism and narcissism. Stephen Post should be congratulated for bringing together experts on that subject from an amazing diversity of disciplines--from the neuroendocrinology of species of voles to the care of HIV/AIDS patients. The overall picture that emerges is that it is not merely better to give than to receive from a moral point of view; it may also be a better strategy for the maintenance of health and well being for the altruistic giver and, given certain ecologies, may perhaps enhance the reproductive fitness of a population." --George M. Martin, Professor of Pathology Emeritus, Director Emeritus, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Washington "This collection sheds important light on the relationship between altruistic love and physical and emotional healing. Altruism and Health is a welcome and original addition to the literature. It is clearly written and accessible to both serious students of the effects of altruism, love, and healing, and to the general public. It will be welcomed by not only the general reader, but also by ministers, counselors, and other professional healers. It is certain to become a valuable reference work. I highly recommend it." --Samuel P. Oliner, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt State University, and Director, Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute "Socrates claimed famously that one never loses by doing the right thing. Stephen Post and his contributors claim, a little less boldly, that at least the generous will, probably, stay healthy--and, improving on Socrates, they support this claim with careful empirical science, impressive for its comprehensive detail. Here ethics and religion join science and enjoin us to be more caring and healthy. A seminal work, with an urgent message."--Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State University "[Post's] stated purpose is 'merely to help open the door to a serious research assessment.' He successfully does this by collecting research reports and reviews by experts drawn from a genuinely impressive array of disciplines. Most of these contributions are of a very high quality. As a result, anyone with any curiousity about possible links between altruism and health (or related concepts) will find much to interest and educate them."--ThePsychologist "Do people who act generously and have kindly emotions reap benefits to themselves? Does this happen even though gaining returns does not motivate their altruistic feelings and behaviors? The path breaking essays in this book answer these questions, with appropriate qualifications, in theaffirmative. Better psychological and physical health and a longer life are the main fruits that accrue to the altruistic person. This is true for youth, adults, and the elderly, as well as for those who are already ill. This book inaugurates a new science of giving. It uncovers the realities behindthe ancient truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. It is a marvelous resource for health care providers, educators, social scientists, and the inquiring general reader."--Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Emeritus"It is hard to imagine a phenotype of greater importance to the future of humanity than that of the dynamic interplay, within various populations, of altruism and narcissism. Stephen Post should be congratulated for bringing together experts on that subject from an amazing diversity ofdisciplines--from the neuroendocrinology of species of voles to the care of HIV/AIDS patients. The overall picture that emerges is that it is not merely better to give than to receive from a moral point of view; it may also be a better strategy for the maintenance of health and well being for thealtruistic giver and, given certain ecologies, may perhaps enhance the reproductive fitness of a population." --George M. Martin, Professor of Pathology Emeritus, Director Emeritus, Alzheimer's Disease ResearchCenter, University of Washington"This collection sheds important light on the relationship between altruistic love and physical and emotional healing. Altruism and Health is a welcome and original addition to the literature. It is clearly written and accessible to both serious students of the effects of altruism, love, andhealing, and to the general public. It will be welcomed by not only the general reader, but also by ministers, counselors, and other professional healers. It is certain to become a valuable reference work. I highly recommend it." --Samuel P. Oliner, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt StateUniversity, and Director, Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute"Socrates claimed famously that one never loses by doing the right thing. Stephen Post and his contributors claim, a little less boldly, that at least the generous will, probably, stay healthy--and, improving on Socrates, they support this claim with careful empirical science, impressive for itscomprehensive detail. Here ethics and religion join science and enjoin us to be more caring and healthy. A seminal work, with an urgent message."--Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State University"[Post's] stated purpose is 'merely to help open the door to a serious research assessment.' He successfully does this by collecting research reports and reviews by experts drawn from a genuinely impressive array of disciplines. Most of these contributions are of a very high quality. As a result, anyone with any curiousity about possible links between altruism and health (or related concepts) will find much to interest andeducate them."--The Psychologist "Do people who act generously and have kindly emotions reap benefits to themselves? Does this happen even though gaining returns does not motivate their altruistic feelings and behaviors? The path breaking essays in this book answer these questions, with appropriate qualifications, in the affirmative. Better psychological and physical health and a longer life are the main fruits that accrue to the altruistic person. This is true for youth, adults, and the elderly, as well as for those who are already ill. This book inaugurates a new science of giving. It uncovers the realities behind the ancient truth that it is more blessed to give than receive. It is a marvelous resource for health care providers, educators, social scientists, and the inquiring general reader."--Don Browning, Alexander Campbell Professor of Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Emeritus "It is hard to imagine a phenotype of greater importance to the future of humanity than that of the dynamic interplay, within various populations, of altruism and narcissism. Stephen Post should be congratulated for bringing together experts on that subject from an amazing diversity of disciplines--from the neuroendocrinology of species of voles to the care of HIV/AIDS patients. The overall picture that emerges is that it is not merely better to give than to receive from a moral point of view; it may also be a better strategy for the maintenance of health and well being for the altruistic giver and, given certain ecologies, may perhaps enhance the reproductive fitness of a population." --George M. Martin, Professor of Pathology Emeritus, DirectorEmeritus, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of Washington "This collection sheds important light on the relationship between altruistic love and physical and emotional healing. Altruism and Health is a welcome and original addition to the literature. It is clearly written and accessible to both serious students of the effects of altruism, love, and healing, and to the general public. It will be welcomed by not only the general reader, but also by ministers, counselors, and other professional healers. It is certain to become a valuable reference work. I highly recommend it." --Samuel P. Oliner, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Humboldt State University, and Director, Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute "Socrates claimed famously that one never loses by doing the right thing. Stephen Post and his contributors claim, a little less boldly, that at least the generous will, probably, stay healthy--and, improving on Socrates, they support this claim with careful empirical science, impressive for its comprehensive detail. Here ethics and religion join science and enjoin us to be more caring and healthy. A seminal work, with an urgent message."--Holmes Rolston, III, University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado State Universityshow more

About Stephen G. Post

Stephen G. Post is a professor in the Department of Bioethics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, he has studied altruism and unselfish love for three decades at the interface of science, philosophy, and world religions.show more

Table of contents

PART I: RESEARCH ON VOLUNTEERING AND HEALTH; PART II: THE CONTRIBUTION OF ALTRUISTIC EMOTIONS TO HEALTH; PART III: EVOLUTIONARY MODELS OF ALTRUISM AND HEALTH; PART IV: ALTRUISM, HEALTH AND RELIGIONshow more