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Happiness and the science of giving - BDA Benevolent Fund

Happiness and the science of giving - BDA Benevolent Fund

According to the World Happiness Report 2015, released earlier this year, the UK is the 21st happiest country in the world. While, as a country, we fall behind the United States, Australia, the Nordic countries and Switzerland (which is smiling in the number one spot) we contentedly remain in the happiest 20% of the 158 countries that have been included in the study.[1]


A number of different variables are taken into account in order to assess the happiness of a country. These include GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity. Of these, generosity has one of the highest positives affects on people and produces the lowest negative affect overall.  


To evaluate a population’s generosity, participants were asked, “Have you donated to a charity in the past month?” The most recent survey of its kind, the UK Giving Report 2014, found that 57% of adults in this country gave to charitable causes in a typical month – meaning that around 34 million people were extending their financial generosity to people in need to the estimated sum of £10.6 billion.[2] But while this is an encouraging statistic, how does it have an impact on the overall happiness of the country?      


Research has shown that people who are giving money to charity exhibit heightened brain activity – particularly in the ventral striatum and tegmental areas. These areas are closely linked to the experience of positive affect and our physiological reward system and the processing of emotional output from the amygdala.[3] What this means is that giving to a worthwhile cause triggers a chemical reaction in our brains that produces a sense of reward and positive emotion. The same areas of the brain are stimulated when we ourselves are given good news or receive something we want, but studies have shown that giving is the better stimulant, corroborating the common adage that ‘it is better to give than receive.’


It has also been proven that doing good for others can benefit our own mental and physical health[4] as well as being an important, pro-social function that contributes to the overall wellbeing of the country. Of course, while it is nice that being charitable makes us feel better, the impact on the people we are giving to is far more important. Being able to depend on the generosity of our peers is a real indicator of a population’s happiness and will make a real difference for the people who are most in need. Circumstance and chance can too easily force any one of us to the brink of desperation and knowing there is a network of support built on the goodwill of others, who are ready and willing to provide help, is a comforting reality.


Established in 1882, the BDA Benevolent Fund has been providing this type of vital support for decades. By offering essential financial assistance for everyday expenses they can bring much-needed relief to dentists and their families, when all other avenues of income fail.


Depending entirely on your generous donations, the BDA Benevolent Fund needs your continued support to carry on helping dentists and their families when times are tough. Help support your colleagues and donate to the BDA Benevolent Fund today.


Thank you.


The BDA Benevolent Fund relies on your help to continue its work,
so please contact us on 020 7486 4994 or
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,
or to give a donation today go to www.bdabenevolentfund.org.uk.

And if you are in need of help yourself, please contact us now.

All enquiries are considered in confidence.


Registered charity no. 208146



[1] The World Happiness Report 2015, published online, 2015; link: http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/04/WHR15.pdf [accessed: 28/04/2015]

[2] UK Giving 2014, published online, 2014; link: https://www.cafonline.org/pdf/CAF%20UK%20Giving-FINAL%20-%20web%20enabled.pdf [accessed: 28/04/2015]

[3] Moll, J., et al. (2006). Human fronto-mesolimbic networks guide decisions about charitable donation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(42)

[4] Mental Health Foundation; Altruism page; link: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/A/altruisim/ [accessed: 28/04/2015]


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