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Friday, December 8, 2023

Older people more likely to do things that benefit others: new study

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Older people, no-matter their level of personal wealth, are generally more generous than the younger generation, according to a newly released, global study.

The research, published in Nature Aging, surveyed 46,576 people, aged 18 to 99 years, across 67 countries, including Australia.

Through a series of hypothetical assessments, researchers found that older adults across the globe, on average, donate higher proportions of their income than their younger counterparts.

Whilst the study noted a slight dip in amounts donated between the ages of 25 and 60 years of age, donations steadily increased thereafter.

The sharpest increase in charity was observed in the 75 to 100-year-old cohort.

However, there is one caveat: younger people were more likely to donate to international charities, with older adults preferring to donate to causes within their own country.

In fact, researchers found that age was negatively associated with donations to international charities.

Dan Woodman, TR Ashworth Professor of Sociology at the University of Melbourne, tells Aged Care News that it is difficult to determine at this stage whether these findings are due to an inherent difference in the psychology of the generations, or rather a matter of shifting priorities as one ages.

“It could be that people shift towards more local concerns as they get older, as they become more invested in one place,” he says.

“Older people are kind of embedded in neighbourhoods over the longer term, in a way that can make you more local: you go to the op shop at the corner… you know people around the neighbourhood.”

Woodman notes that housing affordability and the increasing rate of international travel may be contributing to this generational difference.

“For young people – and this is a mix of a kind of generation and an age thing – they move around more, because they haven’t bought a house yet.

“The only thing that’s changed is it is harder [to buy a house], [and] people are buying houses and settling down in one place later in their life than they used to.

“… whereas international travel’s now almost accessible to, not all young people, but a majority, and they will go to different places, including Asia, a lot more.

“These kinds of things might give you a bit more of an international outlook in your giving.”

It is research that is borne out by Australian data.

A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found that whilst an average of 24 per cent of Australians aged under 40 years made a claim for a tax-deductible donation, this rises to an average of 33 per cent for those over 40.

The AIHW data also shows that the average sum Australians donate grows exponentially with age: those under 18, on average, claim less than $100 per annum, whilst those 70 and over claim more than $4000 per annum.

The Australian data, however, does not control for personal wealth or other tax-related benefits gained.

Researchers note in the global study that their results could not highlight any clear similarities or differences between countries based on culture, history or religion.

Based on current findings, there seems to be a universal phenomenon at play.

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