Love for Others May Bring Rewards

Caring for less fortunate goes hand-in-hand with strong romantic relationships, survey finds

TUESDAY, Feb. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Those who have a love for humanity in general, and a real empathy for the less fortunate, are more like to form strong romantic bonds, a new study finds.

People who scored high on ratings of altruistic love were more likely to rate their lives in general and their marriages in particular as "very happy," according to a 2004 University of Chicago survey of more than 1,300 people.

Only half of those people who were least likely to express altruistic love for others rated their marriage as "very happy," compared with 67 percent of people who expressed the highest levels of altruistic love.

Forty percent of married people scored in the top category in terms of love for others, compared with 20 percent of people who were never married, and 26 percent to 28 percent of people who were either separated or divorced.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Women are more likely than men to feel empathy for others.
  • Children who grow up in a two-parent household are more likely to develop empathetic feelings.
  • Children reared only by mothers are slightly likely to develop empathetic feelings, while children raised only by a father are least likely to develop such feelings. This is especially true for girls.
  • Financial status has little impact on feelings of altruism or empathy.

Seventy-five percent of the 2004 survey respondents reported having tender, concerned feelings toward the less fortunate, a 5 percent increase from a survey in 2002. The number of people (25 percent) in the current survey who said people should look out for themselves and not be overly concerned about others was down 7 percent from the 2002 survey.

More information

The American Psychological Association has advice about teaching kids to care.

SOURCE: University of Chicago, news release, Feb. 9, 2006
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