Altruism and Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research

Hardcover | January 15, 2007

EditorStephen G. Post

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We're all quite familiar with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who was miserable in his selfishness, but later became happy when he began helping others. Ebenezer's story is compelling, but is it true that helping others is good for the giver? Although numerous studies have demonstrated thatpeople experience health benefits when treated kindly and compassionately, do those who provide love to others also experience health benefits? In other words, is it at least as good to give as to receive? Does virtue actually have its own rewards? To answer these questions, Altruism and Health brings research in biology, psychiatry, psychology, gerontology, epidemiology, and public health. Much of this research shows that unselfish individuals will find life to be more meaningful, will usually be happier than their selfish counterparts, andwill often experience better mental health. Some of this research also finds that unselfish individuals have reduced mortality rates and better physical health. Evolutionary and biological models help to explain these results by elucidating why a person who gives generously to others might live amore functional, happier, and healthier life. There is, however, an obvious caveat: those who allow themselves to be overwhelmed by caregiving will often suffer from the stressful burden of care. These findings challenge the shibboleth that being altruistic has either negative consequences or nobenefits. This volume presents the first unified, empirical argument that an individual can live a generous life, without concern for reciprocity or reputational gain, and as a by-product, discover deeper relationships, happiness, health, and even longevity. In doing so, it raises the mostessential and perennial questions of moral psychology and the good life.

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We're all quite familiar with the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who was miserable in his selfishness, but later became happy when he began helping others. Ebenezer's story is compelling, but is it true that helping others is good for the giver? Although numerous studies have demonstrated thatpeople experience health benefits when treated ...

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.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:480 pages, 6.42 × 9.29 × 1.18 inPublished:January 15, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019518291X

ISBN - 13:9780195182910

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements. Introduction. Stephen G. Post, P.D.: PART ONE: RESEARCH ON VOLUNTEERING AND HEALTH. Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner: 1. Doug Oman, Ph.D.: Does Volunteering Foster Physical Health and Longevity?2. Carolyn Schwartz, Sc.D.: Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support3. Paul Wink, Ph.D. and Michele Dillon, Ph.D.: Do Generative Adolescents Become Healthy Older Adults?4. Elizabeth Midlarsky, Ph.D. and Eva Kahana: Altruism, Well-Being and Mental Health in Late Life5. Gail Ironson, M.D., Ph.D.: Altruism and Health in HIV6. Marc A. Musick, Ph.D. and Miranda R. Waggoner: Self-Initiated Volunteering and Mental Health7. Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., E. Gil Clary, Ph.D., and Peter C. Scales, Ph.D.: Altruism and Health: Is There a Link During Adolescence?8. Adam S. Hirschfelder, M.A. with Sabrina L. Reilly, M.A.: Rx: Volunteer A Prescription for Healthy AgingPART TWO: THE CONTRIBUTION OF ALTRUISTIC EMOTIONS TO HEALTH. Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner: 9. Andrea Marques-Deak, Ph.D. and Esther M. Sternberg, M.D.: The Biology of Positive Emotions and Health10. Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H.: Integrating Positive Psychology into Epidemiologic Theory: Reflections on Love, Salutogenesis, and Determinants of Population Health11. George E. Valliant, M.D.: Generativity A Form of Unconditional Love12. Bita Ghafoori, Ph.D. and Robert Hierholzer, M.D.: The Role of Love, Attachment, and Altruism in Adjustment to Military Trauma13. Deborah D. Danner, Ph.D., Wallace V. Friesen, Ph.D., Adah N. Carter, M.A.: Helping Behavior and Longevity: An Emotion Model14. Charlotte V.O. Witvliet and Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D.: Forgiveness and Health: A Review and Theoretical Exploration of Emotion Pathways15. Marivic Dizon, Ph.D., with Lisa D. Butler, Ph.D. and Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D.: Befriending Mans Best Friends: Does Altruism Toward Animals Promote Psychological and Physical Health?PART THREE: EVOLUTIONARY MODELS OF ALTRUISM AND HEALTH. Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner: 16. Stephanie L. Brown, Ph.D., R. Michael Brown, Ph.D., Ashley Schiavone: Close Relationships and Health Through the Lens of Selective Investment Theory17. David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D. and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.: Health and the Ecology of Altruism18. Christopher Boehm, Ph.D.: A Short History of Altruism and Health19. Gregory Fricchione, M.D.: Altruistic Love, Resiliency and Health and the Role of Medicine20. C. Sue Carter, Ph.D.: Monagamy, Love, and Benevolence: Lessons from Prairie VolesPART FOUR: ALTRUISM, HEALTH AND RELIGION. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner: Introduction21. Allen M. Omoto, Ph.D. and Mich`ele M. Schlehofer, M.A.: Volunteerism, Religiousness, Spirituality, and the Health Outcomes of Older Adults22. Neal Krause, Ph.D.: Altruism, Religion, and Health: Exploring the Ways in Which Helping Others Benefits Support Providers23. Harold G. Koenig, M.D.: Altruistic Love and Physical Health

Editorial Reviews

"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 forits 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