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In sickness and health: Caring for ailing spouse may prolong your life
Date:11/25/2008

ce, gender, education, employment status and net worth, Brown and colleagues found that the individuals who provided at least 14 hours of care a week to their spouses were significantly less likely to have died during the study period than those who provided no spousal care.

The results of this study add to a growing literature on the positive, beneficial health effects of caregiving, helping and altruism, according to Brown. Her own earlier work has shown that providing social support to friends, relatives and neighbors has a beneficial impact on mortality and on coping with spousal loss.

Brown has a theory about why this is the case. Rather than assuming that humans are selfish and necessarily act only on the basis of rational self-interest, she believes that strong evolutionary forces favor altruistic motivation when individuals are interdependent.

"There is growing recognition that economic decisions may be influenced by complex motivations, not limited to self-interest," she said. "We don't know yet exactly how caregiving motivation and behavior might influence health, but it could be that helping another person---especially someone you love---relieves some of the harmful stress effects of seeing that person suffer."

With support from the National Science Foundation, Brown will examine how altruistic, helpful behavior, including caregiving, enhances well-being. Starting in 2009, this research will focus on the neuro-affective mechanisms of helping behavior.


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Contact: Diane Swanbrow
swanbrow@umich.edu
734-647-9069
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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