Generous People Can Live Longer, Research Shows

by : Julia Banim on : 01 Sep 2020 17:46
Generous People Can Live Longer, Research ShowsGenerous People Can Live Longer, Research ShowsBuena Vista Distribution/Universal Pictures

They say nice guys finish last, but maybe we’ve been gravely misinterpreting this phrase for all these years.

Indeed, a new research paper has found there is a linear relationship between the amount and frequency of wealth transfers and a person’s life expectancy.

According to this study, published Monday, August 31, those who give money or resources – such as houses, benefits or time – to their children or ageing parents will be more likely to extend their stay on this mortal coil. No wonder Santa Claus is still going strong.


Individual-level studies have previously uncovered health benefits that come with the giving and/or receiving of wealth transfers, and this new research builds upon this.

The goal of this new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), was to address this topic at a societal level, drawing from population-level data from 34 countries to measure the generosity of total public and private transfers received.

This was examined across all life-cycle stages, with models adjusted to recognise other factors that affect life expectancy, including a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and income inequality.


Lead study author Tobias Vogt, an assistant professor at the University of Groningen’s faculty of spatial sciences, said:

At the beginning of life you are reliant on others. It’s a good idea to help others throughout the course of our lives.


Vogt believes that one reason for the noted correlation was that countries with the presence of financial transfers exhibited greater social cohesion.


Backing up his hypothesis, Vogt cited a 2010 meta-analysis from Brigham Young University researchers with an aggregate of 148 different studies totalling more than 300,000 participants.

These previous studies determined that survival was 50% greater for individuals with greater social relationships when compared with those with weaker or no social bonds.

According to findings from this latest study:

Resource sharing has always been a central component of human sociality. Children require heavy investments in human capital; during working years, help is needed due to illness, disability, or bad luck.

While hunter-gatherer elders assisted their descendants, more recently, elderly withdraw from work and require assistance as well. Willingness to share has been critically important for our past evolutionary success and our present daily lives.

[…] Our findings from 34 countries on six continents suggest that survival is higher in societies that provide more support and care for one another.

We suggest that this support reduces mortality by meeting urgent material needs, but also that sharing generosity may reflect the strength of social connectedness, which itself benefits human health and wellbeing and indirectly raises survival.


Those in Western Europe and Japan were found to rank the highest on data linking resource-sharing and lower levels of mortality, and demonstrated the highest average individual wealth transfers.

Individuals here reportedly shared between 68% to 69% of their lifetime income, while recording mortality rates about twice as low as those in China and Turkey, where citizens shared between 44% to 48% of their lifetime earnings.

Those in South American countries were also found to rank highly in terms of generosity, sharing more than 60% of an average person’s lifetime income.


Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia were found to be at the lower end of the spectrum, with people there experiencing shorter life spans while reportedly being the least able to share portions of their earnings.

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, France, Generosity, Japan, life expectancy, Now


  1. Intergenerational resource sharing and mortality in a global perspective