Community West Blog

Can Serving Others Truly Make You Happy? 8 Statistics Prove It Can

Posted by Linda Spencer on Fri, May 10, 2013

Serving OthersFrom the time we’re children, we’re taught it is always better to give than to receive. And in fact, many charitable organizations list an improved sense of well being among the top reasons to donate to charity. But can serving others by giving to charity truly make you happy?

Here, we examine eight statistics that indicate it can:

  • People who gave more to charity in 2000 were 43 percent more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy” about their lives. Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey
  • Those who volunteered in 2000 were 42 percent more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey
  • People who gave money away in 2001 were 34 percent less likely than non-givers to say they had felt “so sad that nothing could cheer them up.” They were also 68 percent less likely to have felt “hopeless” and 24 percent less likely to have said that “everything was an effort.” The University of Michigan’s Panel Study of Income Dynamics
  • In a 2008 study, giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves, despite participants’ prediction that spending on themselves would make them happier. Study by Michael Norton, Harvard Business School professor
  • A 2006 study showed giving to charities activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Study by Jorge Moil and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health
  • A recent study found that expressing gratitude (an emotion integral to happiness, health and social bonds) to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person. Study by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University
  • People who put the needs of others before their own experience a “warm glow.” American Psychological Association
  • People who spend greater proportions of their income on giving to others or to charity are happier than those who spend it on themselves. Dunn EW, Aknin LB and Norton MI, Department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia

These statistics show a definite relationship between charitable giving and happiness; however, they don’t indicate whether giving increases happiness or happiness increases the likelihood of giving. According to an article on, “Researchers have investigated this by conducting experiments in which people are queried about their happiness before and after – sometimes long after – they participate in a charitable activity…The result is clear that giving has a strong, positive casual impact on our happiness.”

So the next time you see a charitable organization claiming giving can lead to happiness, you’ll know that it’s more than a ploy to increase donations.

To learn more about how you can make a difference in your community with these planned giving options, download this free guide.

20 Ways You Can Give to Those in Need with Community West Foundation