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. 2013 Sep;103(9):1649-55.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300876. Epub 2013 Jan 17.

Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality

Free PMC article

Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality

Michael J Poulin et al. Am J Public Health. .
Free PMC article


Objectives: We sought to test the hypothesis that providing help to others predicts a reduced association between stress and mortality.

Methods: We examined data from participants (n = 846) in a study in the Detroit, Michigan, area. Participants completed baseline interviews that assessed past-year stressful events and whether the participant had provided tangible assistance to friends or family members. Participant mortality and time to death was monitored for 5 years by way of newspaper obituaries and monthly state death-record tapes.

Results: When we adjusted for age, baseline health and functioning, and key psychosocial variables, Cox proportional hazard models for mortality revealed a significant interaction between helping behavior and stressful events (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.58; P < .05; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.35, 0.98). Specifically, stress did not predict mortality risk among individuals who provided help to others in the past year (HR = 0.96; 95% CI = 0.79, 1.18), but stress did predict mortality among those who did not provide help to others (HR = 1.30; P < .05; 95% CI = 1.05, 1.62).

Conclusions: Helping others predicted reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.


Product-limit estimator survival probability curves for low (mean – 1 SD) or high (mean + 1 SD) numbers of stressful events in the past year for those who (a) did not help close others and (b) did help close others.

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