The inspirational study: why do people help each other?

While most of us help each other regularly, few of us stop to consider why we do it. Why do we help those in need? And more importantly, are we helping them because we want to, or because we need to help others in order to help ourselves?

It seems unlikely that as you’re donating a dollar to charity, you’ll stop to consider these questions- let alone take the time to try and answer them. For this reason, we’ve compiled a number of different reasons and scenarios that seem to explain why people help each other.

Helping each other, as it turns out, affects pretty much every area of our day to day lives. Family, health, education and work all have some element of help that is pretty much necessary to the efficient function of these systems. However, this list encompasses the primary and most common reasons: why do people help each other?


1. Because it can increase productivity at work.




One of the first questions asked in a standard interview is “Do you work well in a team?”. It’s a tiresome question, and probably one you’ve had to answer countless times in your life, but this doesn’t make it any less relevant. Because what it actually means is, can you help other people? And, can you let them help you?

Your answer, for one, proves to employers that you’re cooperative and friendly- which is key to you establishing good relationships with other employees. But more importantly, it suggests that you have the ability to help others, which in turn can maximize productivity in the workplace.

So how can helping each other improve productivity? Well, for example, according to surveys conducted by ClearCompany: 90% of employees believe that “decision makers should seek other opinions before making final decisions”.

This means that 90% of employees believe that, to a degree, some of the decisions being made by their colleagues are bad. Which also means that if coworkers helped each other make decisions, then they could ensure that the absolute best decision is made- which in turn could improve the productivity and subsequent success of a business.

What’s more, helping colleagues on an emotional level can also improve work performance. In fact, according to the Alberta Health Services , supporting your coworkers with emotional problems can prevent them from lowering their work performance.

This means that in addition to providing emotional support to others, which in itself can be rewarding, your also helping your business or your boss’s business succeed by ensuring that all employees are working efficiently.


2. Because it can help you learn


learn doodle

Study groups are a popular option for college and high school students, and for good reason. Many teaching professionals believe that study groups can create a solid support system, which can reduce the stress of sitting exams, and yield better results for everyone involved.

A great thing about study groups is that they rely on reciprocity. You contribute your ideas, which help someone else, and they in turn contribute theirs- which can help you. This means that not only are you explaining what you know to other people, which is a good way to revise yourself, but you’re also exposed to different perspectives and useful explanations that can help you learn.

In fact, research conducted by the University of London suggests that working in groups can significantly raise “levels of achievement” and that it doubles students’ “active engagement in learning”.


What this reinforces, is the idea that working in a dynamic where you’re helping others can actually help you. Not only can you achieve more, but you can also engage and participate more in your education- which can provide endless benefits for you as a student.


3. Because it makes you feel good


happy generous people

In an article published by BestHealthMag, writer Lisa Bendell references a study performed by York University, in which a number of candidates were asked to act in a helpful way towards other people. After 6 months, results suggested that those that consciously helped others were happier and healthier than those that didn’t change their behavior.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that helping other people can benefit you both mentally and physically. This, in turn, means that you can avoid conditions like depression and anxiety; simply by following your natural instinct to help those in need.

The reason why it can improve your health is, as of yet, unclear. But researchers have their theories. Some experts believe that the happiness you feel comes from the “warm glow” we experience when giving, and social psychologists believe that this glow is a driving factor that makes people more charitable.

In fact, statistics show that in 2009, over 90% of average households in Northern America donated $1600 dollars or more to nonprofit organizations- many of them anonymously. This seems to suggest that people genuinely feel happier and healthier when they help others, or that they at least benefit in some way. If not, why would 90% of us do it?


4. Because it can help you build a family


happy family help each other

A website called Modamily is now connecting single strangers who, in a nutshell, want to help each other raise children. In an article by Click2Houston, founder Ivan Fatovick stated that his job entails finding a stranger to complement a person looking for a “50-50 coparent” arrangement.

According to data supplied by the article, the website has had over 6,000 success stories worldwide. Which means that over 6,000 strangers were able to accomplish their dreams of starting a family by helping each other. And this is just one of many similar situations. Another related example is adoption.

Adopting and fostering children is perhaps the best way of ensuring that young children have a stable home. It’s truly one of the best ways to help others, in terms of family. However, statistics also suggest that helping children through adoption can also help the family doing the adopting.

In fact, data provided by American Adoptions shows that 88 percent of adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy” couple, whereas only 83 percent of non-adoptive parents would also describe themselves as “happy” couples.

This means that by helping children in need, you can help build a happy family or consolidate your existing one by improving your relationships. What’s more, it can eliminate the feeling of failure or self doubt that many infertile couples suffer from prior to adoption- which in turn can also help remove any bitterness or insecurities that families may be dealing with, and begin the process of building a family.


5. Because it can improve your relationships


love couple

Research published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, discusses a study conducted by Brunstein, Dangelmayer and Scultheiss (1996)- which investigated how romantic couples helping each other can improve their relationship.

In particular, the study found that couples who helped support each other’s goals, “evaluated their relationship more positively” and that “the support component most strongly related to relationship satisfaction”.

What this means, in simpler terms, is that helping your partner achieve their goals can not only improve your relationship- but it can directly affect whether they feel satisfied or not. This means that helping each other out is really important, because it can determine the fate of your relationships; and there are endless examples to prove this.

On a really basic level, we now have some evidence to prove that by merely touching your spouse’s hand you can help improve your state of mind. In a study conducted by James Coan, researchers administered mild electric shocks to a number of women. They predicted that the women who had their husband’s there for support would react less than those who didn’t.

So what did the results show? Well they fulfilled the prediction, and pretty much everything we seem to know about helping each other. The women who were aware of their husband’s presence, or holding their hand, showed “decreased neural threat”- or basically less negative brain activity.

And what this means in turn, is that if couples help each other out by supporting each other, then they can reduce neurological responses to electric shocks- or generally bad feelings. In his report, Coan also references how “social support promotes physical healthy” by Dekkers et al., “how it decreases mortality” by Cobb, and how it “increases maintaining behavior” by McNicholas. What all of these studies mean, is that supporting your partner or spouse can help your health, lower your risk of early death and help you behave in a positive way.

But this isn’t just limited to romantic relationships. In your family relationships, help is key to the wellbeing of everyone involved. According to the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “peer and family support” are considered important parts of the recovery treatment for relatives suffering from addiction.

In fact, according to Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy, some studies have proven evidence that substance abuse treatment which includes therapy (and support) works better than treatment that doesn’t.
So what does this mean? Helping each other in relationships can allow us to improve our relationship, better endure stress, and beat difficult conditions like addictions.


6. Because we may be genetically programmed to do so


dna help

According to an article published by the New York Times, recent studies suggest that helping each other may not be something we learn- but something we’re born with. The article references Doctor Tomasello, who in his book “Why we cooperate”, discusses the behavior of 18 month old babies- and how willing they are to help those in need, even before they’ve had the opportunity to be taught to do so.

This, in turn, means that helping each other may be a natural instinct. And as humans, we’re generally not good at suppressing instincts. So actually, what we may experience when we feel the urge to help is an instinct much like hunger or thirst- something that we’re genetically predisposed to want, regardless of what society says.

And if you think about it, this makes sense. Human society is based on cooperation, and our survival as a species may be directly linked to helping each other. Welfare, healthcare and education (to name a few) are all systems based on helping each other; and we simply wouldn’t have the resources we currently do if we didn’t have this instinct to help out.


7. Because society tells us to


community support

Helping each other out in a community is pretty common. Most of us have volunteered our time or services to our local area, but why do we do it? Many people seem to agree that we help each other out because it’s the social norm. Social norms are things that are accepted by society, because they do good for society. Volunteering, for example, does society good by improving our economy.

Statistics show that “the economic value of volunteering is $162 billion U.S. dollars”. This means that society depends on individuals donating their time, because it helps generate the good economy that our society is built on.

The term “Social responsibility norm” seems to support this idea, and what it means, is that people feel a responsibility to help others because society expects it. Psych Central states that this applies to people of power in particular, because society has “placed them on a pedestal as a hero”.

But it can really affect just about anybody. Think about how many times education, religion and even your parents have insisted that helping each other is really important. This means that helping other people is engrained in your upbringing, and that you may help people because you’ve been told to do so by society. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want to help others, what it actually means is that your want to help others was given to you by society. And like many other instances in this list, that’s because society can benefit from it. However, society benefitting from you helping others isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Society benefits from you not committing crime, and we can probably agree that’s a positive thing for you too.

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