|Altruism is the moral practice and principle of promoting someone else’s welfare even at a risk to ourselves. People often behave altruistically when they feel empathy or see others in desperate circumstances and have a desire to help / Photo by: DorSteffen via Shutterstock|
Altruism is the moral practice and principle of promoting someone else’s welfare even at a risk to ourselves. People often behave altruistically when they feel empathy or see others in desperate circumstances and have a desire to help.
A new study published by Cambridge University Press has linked educational attainment with one’s helping behavior. It said that educated people are more likely to help a stranger in need. The researchers from Edith Cowan University and the University of Western Australia (UWA) noted that although altruism is a universal trait, there is less information about its link to one's socio-economic background.
Altruism and Socio-Economic Background
Dr. Cyril Grueter from the UWA School of Human Science, who is also one of the authors of the study, said that previous studies they have conducted and of others have suggested that people with a high socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to be concerned about the welfare of other people. As of their recent findings, it was revealed that the person’s altruistic behavior also depends on their socioeconomic environment.
Lost Letter Paradigm
To come up with the conclusion, the researchers conducted a field experiment by dropping 600 envelopes in the pavements of 20 suburbs in Perth, Australia of different socio-economic variables. They refer to it as the lost letter paradigm with a goal that the letter be returned. Dr. Grueter and colleagues were surprised that the usual suspects, including economic resources and crime, were not linked with the possibility of the letter be returned. Instead, it was occupational status and educational attainment that had a positive effect on altruism behavior.
|It said that educated people are more likely to help a stranger in need / Photo by: 4 PM production via Shutterstock|
Further Study Required
Dr. Grueter added that the exact reason why helping behavior flourishes in places that are populated with highly educated people and are working in high-status jobs needs to be further investigated. Yet, the result of their field experiment already provides a “fascinating glimpse” into the attitudes of people in the community and it may be helpful for intervention and policy development in the country.
The researchers believe that the more educated the person, the more likely they are to have been exposed to norm-abiding models. This means that they are in a better position to internalize the cultural norms of altruism and creating a more altruistic environment of where they are living.
Well-Being and Altruism
Mental, social, psychological, and emotional well-being platform MentalHealth has shared that altruism is good for one’s well-being. For one, it promotes positive physiological changes in the person’s brain that are linked with happiness. Helping or giving to others releases endorphins, a hormone associated with social connection, pleasure, and trust.
Spending money on others and being altruistic leads to a high level of happiness than when you simply spend money on yourself alone. This ultimately creates a positive loop of happiness and generosity because it increases the chance that the person will continue to do good deeds or be altruistic in the future. Altruism also reduces isolation and brings a sense of belonging. It helps reduce the stress level because the person is more focused on helping others.
Another benefit of altruism is that it offers a sense of perspective that makes one realize how lucky they are and stop focusing on things that are lacking in their lives. Research on older people also revealed that those who help others or give support more live longer. This includes giving emotional support to their spouse, or support to a relative, friend, or neighbor.
Country-Level Estimates of Altruism
Our World in Data, a platform that provides data and research on global problems, shares the country-level averages of altruism. The data is measured in -0.5 to 0.5 or higher, where 0.5 means high altruism and -0.5 is less altruism. The countries with a high altruism score are China (0.5), United States (0.41), Brazil (0.46), Egypt (0.63), Morocco (0.56), Italy (0.35), Philippines (0.38), Iran (0.59), Sri Lanka (0.51), Bangladesh (0.91), and Costa Rica (0.42).
On the other hand, countries with a low altruism score include Mexico (-0.81), Saudi Arabia (-0.37), South Africa (-0.32), Poland (-0.37), Tanzania (-0.46), Kenya (-0.32), and Serbia (-0.32).
Meanwhile, database company Statista has detailed the top 10 countries that participated in helping a stranger between 2009 and 2018. The list includes Liberia (77%), Sierra Leone (74%), United States of America (72%), Kenya (685), Zambia (67%), Uganda (66%), Nigeria (66%), Iraq (65%), Canada (645), Malawi (64%), and New Zealand (64%).
In terms of education, the intergovernmental economic group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranks Canada as the most educated country in the world as over 56% of adults in the country have earned some kind of education after high school. Even the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized that education is their nation’s greatest resource. He recognized that although their natural resources are significant, education is what it takes to prosper and grow. Other highly educated countries that follow Canada include Japan, Israel, Korea, United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Finland, Norway, and Luxembourg.
Education indeed gives us knowledge of the world around us. This is why Dr. Grueter and the team's research makes sense because education gives a different perspective of looking at life that also propels people to help and lead others to success.