Life

Revealed: The surprising sexual benefits of kindness and charity

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Kayleigh Dray
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Thanks to all of those #passiton and #rakday hashtags on social media, people have never been more likely to take time out of their day to help someone else – if only to get a good Instagram photo out of it.

But, in today’s dog-eat-dog world, it often seems as if altruism isn’t just an indulgent habit; it’s a risky one, too.

So why have our most selfless traits been maintained throughout the process of evolution?

Yup, you guessed it; selflessness is sexy.

The concept is hardly a new one. After all, Saint Basil famously said: “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.

“A good deed is never lost; her who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Now a new study, carried out at Nipissing University in Ontario, has confirmed that Saint Basil’s words are completely true - people who go out of their way to help others tend to reap the rewards in the bedroom, with more sexual partners, and better, more frequent sex, than those who are selfish.

Jar filled with pennies for charity, lying next to paper hearts

Kindness is sexy, according to a new study

Researchers in Canada spoke with almost a thousand people about their relationships and their altruistic habits, which included such tasks as giving money to charity, donating blood, helping people across the street, and more.

The men and women who scored higher on altruism said they were more attractive to, and received more interest from the opposite sex – which supports the theory that altruism evolved as a means to help our entire species survive, not just individuals.

The study, which was published in the British Journal of Psychology, stated: “The present study provides the first empirical evidence that altruism may tangibly benefit mating in humans living in Western industrialised society.

“Previous studies have investigated whether altruists are more attractive than non-altruists, all else being equal.”

The researchers added that their findings add to past research on hunter-gatherers, which showed that men who hunt and who share more meat among non-relatives also tend to have more sex. 

They concluded: “The present study is the first to show that this may translate into mating success, in that altruists had more mates than non-altruists. This supports the idea that altruism might be a signal of desirable qualities and could have evolved in part via sexual selection.”

People working at a homeless shelter

Has this encouraged you to volunteer with a local charity?

However there is one sticky issue with the study; researchers can’t figure out which way the juices are flowing.

That’s right; it remains to be seen whether or not the feel-good vibes of sex are what encourage happy people to be kinder to others, or whether kindness itself is what acts as the aphrodisiac.

It’s a bit like a more sexy version of the age-old ‘chicken or the egg’ debate, isn’t it?

Either way, we feel strangely compelled to drop off some tins at our local foodbank later.

Images: iStock

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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