Joy, happiness, peace, whatever. We all know the holidays are really about presents. (Don’t worry, we’re mostly kidding.) But it’s undeniable that giving is a central part of December celebrations— here in the U.S., at least. So we had to ask ourselves: Does it make us happier to give or receive?
Generosity may become even more important as we age, since providing social support improves older adults’ well-beingIs it better to give or to receive? Social support and the well-being of older adults. Thomas, P.A. Department of Sociology, Duke University, Box 90088, Durham, NC. The Journals of Gerentology, 2010 May;65B(3):351-7. Epub 2009 Dec 22.. And parents will be glad to know the more they give kids today (primarily gifts of time, but also shelling out the cash for over-the-top cell phone bills), the more supportive kids are likely to be when their parents ageReciprocity in parent-child relations over the adult life course. Silverstein, M., Conroy, S.J., Wang, H., et al. University of Southern California, Andrus Gerontology Center, Los Angeles, CA. The Journals of Gerentology, 2002 Jan;57(1):S3-13..
The value of giving and receiving may also depend on gender. One study found that within relationships, men are healthier when they receive emotional support, while giving emotional support makes women healthierWhen it is better to give than to receive: long-term health effects of perceived reciprocity in support exchange.Väänänen, A., Buunk, B.P., Kivimäki, M., et al. Department of Psychology, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005 Aug;89(2):176-93.. (Note to boyfriends: This research is no excuse for mooching.)
And whether giving or receiving, a wad of cash doesn’t seem like the way to go. A study of college students showed gifts of money in different kinds of relationships left the recipients less than thrilled, because the money brought up issues of status. In general, giving and receiving can be equally beneficial, especially among close friends and family— as long as the gift itself doesn’t cause any frictionSocial exchange and well-being: is giving better than receiving? Liang, J., Krause, N.M., Bennett, J.M. Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Psychology and Aging, 2001 Sep;16(3):511-23..
Giving and receiving can both be beneficial among close friends and family, but giving to less familiar recipients doesn’t make us as happy and may even cause depression later in life.Men tend to benefit most from receiving emotional support, and women from giving it. Gifts of money within intimate relationships sometimes result in friction rather than affection.
So dish: Which do you like better, giving or receiving? (Bonus points if you say why!) Tell us in the comments below!