Being a better person can improve a person’s mental and physical health, a new study finds. Researchers at Harvard University found that people who reported character and personality traits consistent with ‘good moral character’ were up to 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression.
They also found significant changes in risks of developing heart disease based on a person’s moral standards, and those that are more willing to delay gratification in their every day life will suffer less anxiety.
The research team is hopeful that these findings will reinforce the inherent human want to be a good person, as now there are tangible health benefits to doing so.
Being a person of ‘good moral character’ can reduce a person’s risk of suffering from depression, anxiety or heart disease, a new study finds (file photo)
‘Our findings show that persons who live their life according to high moral standards have substantially lower odds of depression,’ Dr Dorata Weziak-Bialowolska, a research scientist at Harvard, said in a statement.
‘They also suggest that preferences for delayed gratification may have some potential to be relevant for mitigating risk of anxiety and using strengths of moral character for helping others may be beneficial for one’s physical health.’
Researchers, who published their findings in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, gathered data from surveys and health insurance claim data from 1,209 participants for the study.
Each of them completed surveys in 2018 and 2019 rating how they related to a certain set of statements.
To judge ‘moral compass’, they were asked whether they feel that they always know what to do.
They were asked questions like ‘I am willing to face difficulties in order to do what is right’ and ‘I give up personal pleasures whenever it is possible to do some good instead.’
Other questions gauged their personal strength, kindness and how willing they were to delay gratification for more longer term benefits.
The study population tested higher in each metric in 2019 when compared to 2018.
They found that people who tested highly on moral compass were up to 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression.
Researchers also found a clear correlation between anxiety rates and the how much a person was willing to delay happiness now for a more positive outcome in the future.
People who scored higher across metrics were also less likely to have heart disease depending on how they scored.
‘We know that character strengths are positive personality traits that are essential to one’s identity, contribute to the greater good, and play a favorable role in promoting well-being and positive health,’ Weziak-Bialowolska said.
While this just early research, the team of experts is hopeful that it means people will be rewarded for good actions.
‘However, as these positive personality traits are aligned with the nearly universal human desire to become a better person, and are malleable, public health policies promoting them are likely to receive positive reception from the general public,’ Weziak-Bialowolska added.