Helper's High: Health Benefits of Volunteering

How helping others helps prevent heart disease and depression and boosts longevity (10 Photos)

Robert A. Barnett on Oct 26, 2012 at 4:50PM

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Helper's High: Health Benefits of Volunteering

Johner Royalty-Free/Johner Royalty-Free/Getty Images

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Less Stress

To help someone you don’t know, you have to overcome the natural impulse to avoid risk. Every time you help a stranger, you are reaching out a little, and that can make you feel vulnerable. The theory is that to overcome those fears, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which helps you buffer stress while increasing social trust and tranquility. This “compassion hormone,” it turns out, is very good for your body. “You are limiting exposure to stress hormones like cortisol,” says Brown. “That may be one reason why helping behavior is related to longevity.”

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