Forgiveness Boosts Health; Effect Varies with Age : LUSENET : Zonkers : One Thread

Forgiveness Boosts Health; Effect Varies with Age

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - To err is human and to forgive divine, according to the old adage, but humans who forgive are known to experience significant physical and mental health benefits from doing so. Now researchers report that these beneficial health effects appear to vary by age, along with the willingness to forgive others, the willingness to forgive oneself and the feeling of being forgiven by God.

``Taken together, our findings emphasize that forgiveness is a multidimensional phenomenon,'' write study lead author Dr. Loren L. Toussaint of the University of Michigan and colleagues. ``There are age differences in some forms of forgiveness and in their relationship to health.''

Their conclusions are based on survey responses from more than 1,400 adults during a 5-month study period.

In general, young adults (18-44 years) reported that they were less likely to forgive others than middle-aged (45-64) and older adults (65 and older). They were also less likely than older adults to believe that they had been forgiven by God, the investigators report in the Journal of Adult Development.

Among survey participants of all ages, however, reports of forgiveness of themselves and others were associated with decreased psychological distress, including feelings of restlessness, hopelessness and nervousness.

Further, young adults who reported high levels of self-forgiveness were more likely to be satisfied with their lives, whereas middle age and older adults who reported high levels of forgiveness of others were more likely to report increased life satisfaction.

But not all foregiving is immediately beneficial, the findings suggest. Proactive forgiveness-asking for forgiveness, rather than granting it--was associated with increased psychological distress among all study participants. Other acts of proactive forgiveness would include asking God's forgiveness for hurting someone or praying for someone who has hurt them.

The researchers speculate that this may be because such proactive individuals are ``'taking the first step' in the process of forgiveness,'' which may lead to heightened stress.

In other findings, attendance at religious services was associated with decreased psychological distress, particularly among young and middle-aged adults, and increased life satisfaction among young and old adults. Service attendance was also associated with higher self-rated health among all age groups.

The study was partly supported by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

SOURCE: Journal of Adult Development 2001;8:249-257.

-- Anonymous, December 29, 2001

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