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Neurochemical Hormone Makes Pensioners more Generous, New Study Finds

Neurochemical Hormone Makes Pensioners more Generous, New Study Finds

Saturday, 23 April, 2022 - 08:45
Elderly women sit at a park in downtown Shanghai March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

People who release more of the neurochemical oxytocin are kinder to others and tend to be more satisfied with their lives, said researchers from the US Claremont University in a new study published April 20, in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

They also discovered that oxytocin release increases with age, showing why people are more satisfied as they get older.

Seniors spend more time volunteering and donate a larger proportion of their income to charity than do younger people, so the researchers wanted to see if there was a neurochemical basis for these behaviors.

The researchers studied this hormone for years. In a past study, they found that watching a video about a little boy with cancer induces oxytocin release in the brain. In the new study, the team recruited more than 100 people ranging between the ages of 18 and 99. They were each shown the same video, and blood was taken before and after the video to measure the change in oxytocin.

Participants had the option to donate some of their earnings from the study to a childhood cancer charity, and this was used to measure their immediate prosocial behavior. We also collected data on their emotional states, to provide information on their overall satisfaction with life.

“People who released the most oxytocin in the experiment were not only more generous to charity, but also performed many other helping behaviors,” said senior author Paul Zak of Claremont’s Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, in a report.

“We also found that the release of oxytocin increased with age and was positively associated with life satisfaction,” he added.

Zak would like to repeat this study in a more ethnically and geographically diverse sample of people to see if the findings hold for different cultures.

“We would also like to conduct a longer-term measurement of neurophysiology using noninvasive wearable technologies to see what specific activities raise people's satisfaction with life,” he concluded.

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