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    Older Adults Most Likely to Make the Effort to Help Others



    Summary: Older adults are more likely to make an effort to help others, a new study reports. Researchers found, when faced with tasks that required more effort, older adults were more likely to offer help than younger people. By contrast, younger adults were more selfish and put in higher levels of effort for self-benefit.

    Source: University of Birmingham.

    The world’s population is aging. As people age, social interactions are very important for maintaining health and well-being, because social isolation is significantly harmful to physical and mental health. Social connection depends on prosociality in this increasingly aging population. Helping other people requires effort, yet how willing people are to exert effort in their own interest and to help others, and whether such behaviors change across the lifespan, is poorly understood.

    The researchers in the University’s School of Psychology led to a study, which is the first to show how effortful ‘prosocial’ behaviour – intended to benefit others – changes as people get older. In particular, it focused on people’s willingness to apply physical effort, rather than to give money or time, since attitudes to both these are known to alter with age.

    In the study, the research team examined a group of 95 adults aged 18 to 36, and a group of 92 adults aged 55 to 85. Each participant had to make 150 choices about whether or not to grip a handheld dynamometer – a device for measuring grip strength or force,- with 6 different levels of how strongly they had to grip. Before the experiment, the researchers checked each person’s maximum grip strength, so they could make sure that the effort people had to put in was the same for everyone, and not affected by how strong people were.

    The results showed that when the task was easy, young and older adults were equally inclined to work for others, but, when the task required more effort, older adults were more willing to work to help others. In contrast, younger adults were more selfish and were likely to put in higher levels of effort to benefit themselves.

    Published: University of Birmingham.

    Contact: Patricia L. Lockwood, MRC Fellow, University of Birmingham.

    Details: Image source Unsplash


    Hi, I’m Aarti, My Psychoanalytical approach towards my clients is to empower them to better their lives through improving their relationship with themselves. I believe shame and guilt is a common barrier to change. I aim to guide my clients through re authoring their narratives where shame, guilt, and other problems have less power and take up less space.

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