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Health and the gift of giving
By Lisa Jones
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Health and the gift of giving

To coin a phrase – “it is better to give than to receive.” But, can this be proven? Interestingly enough – when it comes to your health – research suggests this statement is undeniably true.

Research published in the “Journal of Economic Psychology” and reported in the Wall Street Journal found that donating to charity can actually improve a person’s physical and emotional well-being. An additional study, published in the “International Journal of Psychophysiology,” confirmed the results, saying there are measurable improvements in blood pressure, self-esteem, depression, stress and longevity associated with increased charitable giving.

Additionally, these same health benefits are realized when people volunteer time instead of money to benefit those in need. According to a 1999 University of California, Berkeley, study, people over age 55 who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer – even when results were adjusted for additional factors such as age, exercise level, general health and habits like smoking or alcohol use.

To further confirm these assertions, researchers from the National Institutes of Health studied the functional MRI results from subjects who donated to charity, finding that such giving stimulates the reward center in the brain, releasing brain chemicals that produce what they call the “helper’s high.”

So, the research confirms what we already knew: people just plain feel better when they help others in need.

Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines has a long tradition of charitable giving, dating back to the example set by the Sisters of Mercy since our founding. Our “Mission on the Move” projects throughout the year provide the Mercy Family with numerous opportunities to Live Up and provide tangible heartfelt assistance to those we are privileged to serve, both in our hospitals and in the community at large.

The holiday season is ripe with opportunity to make a difference for others who may not necessarily have the benefit of good health or abundance in their lives. It’s a win-win proposition and one of the prime examples of how much you have to gain when you first make a commitment to giving.

Sources:; National Institutes of Health.

Learn more.

If you are interested in making a donation to Mercy Foundation, visit Or, if you are interested in volunteering for Mercy, visit

A few of the many projects Mercy had the honor of supporting this past year include:

  • Back-to-School Supply Drive
  • Meals from the Heartland
  • Walk to End Alzheimer’s
  • Combat Hunger
  • ALS Walk
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Shoes that Fit
  • Martin Luther King Day of Service
  • Lenten Project to benefit the homeless
  • Mother’s Day Diaper Drive
  • Sixth Avenue Clean-Up
  • March of Dimes Walk
  • American Heart Walk


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