The Benefits of Giving

Harry Health Guide
  • The June 7, 2007 issue of Biology Letters looked at the grooming behavior of Barbary Apes in Gibraltar. In the study, the researchers followed eleven females over a two month period. They timed the amount of time each animal spent both grooming and being groomed, and then they collected their stool and analyzed it for levels of Cortisol, which is one of the major stress hormones. (I am sure others will comment on the length to which researchers will go, so I will leave it alone).

    The results were fascinating and somewhat counterintuitive. It turned out that the level of Cortisol fell in direct proportion to the amount of time spent grooming another animal, but didn’t vary with the amount of time spent being groomed. In those animals who were the most active groomers the levels of Cortisol were about half those in the least active.

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    While the article goes on to theorize why giving would biologically be more relaxing than receiving, the main point is that it is a pretty clear objective measure that this is so. There are any number of studies showing that social altruism brings its own biological reward, and here is one showing that physical altruism does just the same.

    The take home message is pretty clear: Go ahead and find someone you can touch, and get to work.

Published On: June 26, 2007