There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics. Sometimes, these statistics make it into a scientific paper. Other statistics make it into another one, and together, they contradict each other. Well, not really, in this case, but they send different – opposing – messages.
Case 1: giving is good!
There appears to be substantial evidence that being nice to others, i.e. being altruistic, donating to charities and the like, makes you happier. In knew that, of course, and that is why I publicly and loudly donate money to charities. Being good is one thing, being able to shout that from the rooftops is even better :p. However:
Case 2: giving makes you depressed!
Then there is this paper, claiming quite the opposite* – I’m confused now :(. The author analysed two American studies among over 500 individuals of middle age for a correlation between financial support and the occurrence of major depression (MD). His conclusions?
“Financial support of 10 or more dollars per month had a significant impact on the development of MD in comparison to no financial support. Unpaid assistance and providing emotional support were not significantly associated with the development of MD in later life. Conclusions: Those who provide financial contribution to individuals other than family members can be at risk of developing MD.”
It would be enough to drive me depressed – if I wasn’t depressed and cynical already.
(*well, not really – there is always the question of what causes what – correlation does not necessarily imply causation. The famous example of people wearing hats getting more skin cancer jumps to mind. Think about how that one works…)