Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Cooperation leads to a longer life

New research into the long-term health of grandparents confirms the centrality of cooperation and collective responsibility in human society. The study weighs heavily against the anti-socialist idea that people are naturally selfish and driven by greed. Such ideas are commonly used to argue that a democratic socialist society is doomed from the start.

The study, published late last year in the peer-reviewed Journal of Evolution and Human Behaviour, found that those who regularly assist in caring for grandchildren get an average boost to their life span of 5 years. The effect is greater than the impact of staying active and healthy, and the impact of having a severe or chronic illness late in life.

Benefits were not limited to grandparents the study showed. Older people who help their adult children a moderate amount, for example with housework, or provide support to others in their community also enjoy longer lives than those who don’t.

Interestingly the research showed that grandparents who were forced to become primary carers for children, perhaps because the parents have died, did not benefit. In fact, their life expectancy was shortened. This highlights the importance of sharing work, including care giving, so as not to overburden people. But capitalism is notoriously inept at allocating work fairly and efficiently. For example, women still do the vast majority of caring work, unpaid and within families.

Volunteers at sports clubs, schools, youth programs and other community programs are already highly valued among working class communities. The research will further reinforce this positive view of selfless volunteering. One author of the research, Dr Coall of Edith Cowan University in Perth, commented that there is increasing evidence that helping other people with no expectation of a return has significant health benefits. This is but one reason why a socialist society based on cooperation and a sharing of wealth would be far superior to profit-driven capitalism.

By Kirk Leonard