‘Love Hormone’ Linked to Increased Empathy in the Elderly
You may have noticed older people tend to be more compassionate and generous than younger individuals. But, believe it or not, this isn’t solely attributed to generational gaps and different upbringing. The reason also lies in the hormone known as oxytocin.
Generally, oxytocin has the function of regulating reproductive behavior, contractions during childbirth, and lactation. It also acts as a chemical messenger in the brain. However, various experiments have been conducted which show brain oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and impact feelings of trust, empathy, collaboration, kindness, and the need for bonding.
Moreover, a recent study found that older adults have a higher increase in oxytocin levels in social situations implying compassion and empathy than younger individuals. The increased oxytocin levels may reveal why older people have greater life satisfaction, and are usually more helpful and charitable.
The study involved 103 adults aged between 18–99. They were asked to watch a touching video of a man talking about his feelings caused by his young son’s terminal illness. Afterward, the research team analyzed blood samples taken from the participants before and after the video. They discovered that older adults had the highest increase in oxytocin levels.
Furthermore, the participants were given money after watching the video with the option to donate it to charity. The team noticed that the participants who had higher oxytocin levels after the first task were more likely to donate their reward. They were also more likely to engage in volunteering activities than younger participants.
Nevertheless, this study does have a few limitations which significantly hinder its conclusiveness. Firstly, it focused on oxytocin release and helpful behaviors. Secondly, the number of participants was insufficient, and lastly, it only included individuals from a single American state.
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