Whom you spend money on matters
Interestingly, we found tentative evidence that how people spent their money mattered for promoting the benefits of financial generosity. People seemed to benefit most from spending money on others they felt closest to. This finding is consistent with previous research from our lab showing that people derive the most satisfaction from spending money on others when they splurge on close friends and family.
For instance, the first participant in our study was a war veteran. He donated his payments to a school built in honor of a friend he had served with in the Vietnam War. Another participant donated her payments to a charity that had helped her granddaughter survive anorexia.
Of course, there is still a lot to learn about when and for whom the health benefits of financial generosity emerge.
For example, we don’t know a lot about how or how much people should spend on others to enjoy long-lasting health benefits. Indeed, research suggests that the positive benefits of new circumstances can disappear quickly. Thus, to sustain the health benefits of financial generosity, it might be necessary to engage in novel acts of financial generosity, while prioritizing people that you are closest to.
And financial generosity might not always benefit health. Drawing from research on caregiving, financial generosity might provide benefits only when it does not incur overwhelming personal costs. After reading this article, you probably should think twice before donating your entire life savings to charity, because the stress of helping so extensively could undermine any potential benefits.
Although more research is needed to replicate these results, our initial findings provide some of the strongest evidence to date that daily decisions related to engaging in financial generosity can have causal benefits for physical health.
Stepping toward better health (and happiness) may be as simple as spending your next $20 generously.
Ashley Whillans, PhD student in Social & Health Psychology, University of British Columbia
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.