People who are most generous may be more likely to have a happy life

Generous people are more likely to be happy and satisfied with multiple aspects of their lives, according to a recent study conducted by The Ascent by The Motley Fool.

And it’s not just about money.

“It’s less of a focus on money and cash donations as it is on behaviors overall throughout life that are related to generosity,” Industry Analyst at The Ascent by Motley Fool, Nathan Hamilton said.

The most generous people are 23% more likely to be satisfied with their lives overall, according to the survey of more than 1,000 Americans.

People who are the most generous versus the least generous tend to be happier with finances (46% versus 29%), career (55% versus 38%), romantic life (61% versus 48%), social life (66% versus 48%), family life (73% versus 67%) and friendships (74% versus 52%).

Survey respondents were given an altruism score based on how frequently (never, once, more than once, often, very often) they practice the following behaviors:

1. I would give directions to someone I did not know.

2. I would make changes for someone I did not know.

3. I would give money to a charity.

4. I would donate clothes or goods to a charity.

5. I would help carry belongings of someone I did not know.

6. I would delay an elevator and hold the door for someone I did not know.

7. I would allow someone I did not know to go in front of me in line.

8. I would point out a clerk’s error in undercharging me for an item.

9. I would let a neighbor I did not know well borrow an item of value to me.

10. I would help a classmate I did not know well with a homework assignment when
my knowledge was greater than his or hers.

11. I would voluntarily look after a neighbor’s pet or children without being paid.

12. I would offer to help a handicapped or elderly person across the street.

13. I would offer my seat on a train or bus to someone who was standing.

14. I would help an acquaintance move houses.

The survey also finds that people who are more generous are more likely to have friends who will do things for them such as pick them up at 2 a.m. if their car were to break down, visit them in the hospital, help them move, take them to the airport or plan a party for them.

Some people are naturally more generous than others because of brain chemistry or genetics or for whatever reason, Hamilton said. But research shows that altruism can be a learned behavior, he added.

“There’s a subsection of people — and I would say probably more people — who aren’t born that way, but have learned that behavior over time,” Hamilton said. “It’s a matter of practicing, it’s a matter of doing it on a daily basis, or a weekly basis or a monthly basis; kind of like working out.”

You can read all the survey findings online.

The survey is said to have a 95% confidence level with a margin of error of 3%.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up