The Latest Science on Having a Rewarding Christmas


Co-authored by Michael Dello

“Oh what a void there is in things.” – Persius

In The Life You Can Save, The Most Good You Can Do and his hugely successful TED talk, Peter Singer repeatedly emphasizes the immense satisfaction and happiness in giving to charity. In some respects, it may seem like conventional wisdom that helping others makes you happier, the most obvious examples of which being the growing popularity of various ‘donate your Christmas’ campaigns. But if you’re not satisfied with anecdotal evidence, let’s briefly dive into the latest findings in psychology on the link between giving, what is defined as materialism (prime example) and well-being.

Giving To Others Is A Gift For Ourselves

An experiment in 2014 involved giving people $5 or $20 in cash and instructing some to spend it on themselves while the rest spend it on someone else. At the end of the day, those who spent the money on others reported being happier than those who spent the money on themselves. Curiously, the amount of money participants received was not a factor in determining happiness. In another experiment, participants either bought a bag of sweets for themselves or for a sick child. Those who bought the gift for a sick child reported being significantly happier than those who bought it for themselves. This effect even applied to low-income earners in South Africa, where more than 20% of participants in one experiment reported having insufficient money to buy food for themselves or their family in the previous year.

Living In A Material World

Materialism is also associated with significantly lower feelings of well-being according to a 2014 meta-analysis. This trend exists over a range of demographic and cultural settings, including children as young as 10 and adults as old as 80. Materialism —> Read More