Philanthropy

Philanthropy is “good for you”

Survey findings

Making a donation to charity not only helps others, it can make the giver mentally tougher, physically stronger and more popular, research shows. Two separate studies confirmed the benefits.

In the first piece of research, by Harvard University, scientists looked at whether doing good deeds affects willpower and physical endurance. Volunteers were given a dollar and told to keep it or donate it to charity. The decision made, they were asked to hold a weight for as long as they could. To the surprise of the researchers, those who had done a good deed were able to bear the load for almost ten seconds longer than the others.

In another test, volunteers held a weight while writing fictional accounts of either helping someone, harming them or doing something that had no effect. Again, those who thought of doing good had more endurance than those who were neutral.

But strongest of all were those who imagined hurting someone, the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science reports.

Researcher Kurt Gray said: “Whether you're saintly or nefarious, there seems to be power in moral events. People often look at strangers who do good or evil and think ‘I could never do that’ or ‘I wouldn't have the strength’.

“By perceiving themselves as good or evil, people embody these perceptions.”

The second study, at Newcastle University, centred on a game that involved giving cash to other players. Those who were generous at the start became well-liked and trusted – and ended with more money themselves, the Royal Society journal Biology Letters reports.