Good for the Giver


If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.


There are many ways that giving is beneficial to the giver: gratitude, cooperation, social connection, health. In this article, I will focus on recent studies of giving and happiness.

As the purse is emptied the heart is filled.

Victor Hugo

Studies comparing donors and non-donors indicate that those who give report that they are 43% happier than those who do not give. In addition to their self-reported happiness, giving has been proven to reduce anxiety and lower stress – both of which can increase happiness levels. (Linked In, Catherine (Katie) Chapman, Philanthropic/Charitable Consultant)

A 2007 experiment using fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) found giving simulated the ventral striatum. That brain region is associated with a range of rewarding stimuli, from cocaine to art to attractive faces. The results suggest that giving, in the form of charitable donations, is inherently rewarding. (Harbaugh, Mayr, and Burghart)

A 2014 book by two Notre Dame social scientists, called The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, combined in-depth interviews, national surveys, and group observations. They determined that “the more generous Americans are, the more happiness, health, and purpose in life they enjoy. This association…is strong and highly consistent… Generous practices actually create enhanced personal well-being. The association…is not accidental, spurious, or an artifact of reverse causal influence.”

The scientists made this conclusion. “People often say that we increase the love we have by giving it away.” In this, they write, “generosity is like love.”