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Altruism can reduce the Effects of Everyday Stress, Study Says

Update Date: Dec 14, 2015 10:37 AM EST

An easy way to reduce the effects of stress is to help others, a new study reported.

For this study, the research team recruited 77 adults between the ages of 18 and 44 to participant in a 14-day long experiment. The researchers did not include people who have mental illness or cognitive impairment. People with substance abuse problems were also excluded.

The participants were required to fill out a daily assessment, which included listing any stressors they encountered, whether it was from work, financial issues or health, and any instances of altruism, which included a wide range of helpful tasks, such as holding the door for someone or helping someone with their work. Emotional wellbeing was measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale and mental health was self-reported on a scale of 0-to-100.

The team found that people who helped others more often were more likely to have higher levels of positive emotions and overall mental health in comparison to people who did not do as many helpful tasks.

"Our research shows that when we help others we can also help ourselves," study author Emily Ansell of the Yale University School of Medicine said reported by Medical Xpress. ""For example, if a participant did engage in more prosocial behaviors on stressful days there was essentially no impact of stress on positive emotion or daily mental health. And there was only a slight increase in negative emotion from stress if the participant engaged in more prosocial behaviors."

She added, "The holiday season can be a very stressful time, so think about giving directions, asking someone if they need help, or holding that elevator door over the next month. It may end up helping you feel just a little bit better."

The researchers noted that it would be interesting to study the effects of prosocial behaviors on mental health and emotional wellbeing if people are told or recommended to engage in them.

The study's findings were published in the Association for Psychological Science journal, Clinical Psychological Science.

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