Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press, USA
Altruism and Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research

Altruism and Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research

by Stephen G. PostStephen 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 that people 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, and will 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 a more 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 no benefits. 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 most essential and perennial questions of moral psychology and the good life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195182910
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 04/12/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 9.30(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Introduction. Stephen G. Post, P.D.
Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner
1. Does Volunteering Foster Physical Health and Longevity?, Doug Oman, Ph.D.
2. Altruism and Subjective Well-Being: Conceptual Model and Empirical Support, Carolyn Schwartz, Sc.D.
3. Do Generative Adolescents Become Healthy Older Adults?, Paul Wink, Ph.D. & Michele Dillon, Ph.D.
4. Altruism, Well-Being and Mental Health in Late Life, Elizabeth Midlarsky, Ph.D. and Eva Kahana
5. Altruism and Health in HIV, Gail Ironson, M.D., Ph.D.
6. Self-Initiated Volunteering and Mental Health, Marc A. Musick, Ph.D. & Miranda R. Waggoner
7. Altruism and Health: Is There a Link During Adolescence?, Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., E. Gil Clary, Ph.D., & Peter C. Scales, Ph.D.
8. Rx: Volunteer A Prescription for Healthy Aging, Adam S. Hirschfelder, M.A. with Sabrina L. Reilly, M.A.
Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner
9. The Biology of Positive Emotions and Health, Andrea Marques-Deak, Ph.D. & Esther M. Sternberg, M.D.
10. Integrating Positive Psychology into Epidemiologic Theory: Reflections on Love, Salutogenesis, and Determinants of Population Health, Jeff Levin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
11. Generativity A Form of Unconditional Love, George E. Valliant, M.D.
12. The Role of Love, Attachment, and Altruism in Adjustment to Military Trauma, Bita Ghafoori, Ph.D. & Robert Hierholzer, M.D.
13. Helping Behavior and Longevity: An Emotion Model, Deborah D. Danner, Ph.D., Wallace V. Friesen, Ph.D., Adah N. Carter, M.A.
14. Forgiveness and Health: A Review and Theoretical Exploration of Emotion Pathways, Charlotte V.O. Witvliet & Michael E. McCullough, Ph.D.
15. Befriending Mans Best Friends: Does Altruism Toward Animals Promote Psychological and Physical Health?, Marivic Dizon, Ph.D., with Lisa D. Butler, Ph.D. & Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D.
Introduction. Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner
16. Close Relationships and Health Through the Lens of Selective Investment Theory, Stephanie L. Brown, Ph.D., R. Michael Brown, Ph.D., Ashley Schiavone
17. Health and the Ecology of Altruism, David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D. and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.
18. A Short History of Altruism and Health, Christopher Boehm, Ph.D.
19. Altruistic Love, Resiliency and Health and the Role of Medicine, Gregory Fricchione, M.D.
20. Monagamy, Love, and Benevolence: Lessons from Prairie Voles, C. Sue Carter, Ph.D.
Introduction, Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. with Brie Zeltner
21. Volunteerism, Religiousness, Spirituality, and the Health Outcomes of Older Adults, Allen M. Omoto, Ph.D. and Michèle M. Schlehofer, M.A.
22. Altruism, Religion, and Health: Exploring the Ways in Which Helping Others Benefits Support Providers, Neal Krause, Ph.D.
23. Altruistic Love and Physical Health, Harold G. Koenig, M.D.

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