Intergenerational resource sharing and mortality in a global perspective
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117:37, 22793–22799 (2020)
Resource sharing has always been a central component of human sociality. Children require heavy investments in human capital; during working years, help is needed due to illness, disability, or bad luck. While hunter-gatherer elders assisted their descendants, more recently, elderly withdraw from work and require assistance as well. Willingness to share has been critically important for our past evolutionary success and our present daily lives. Here, we document a strong linear relationship between the public and private sharing generosity of a society and the average length of life of its members. Our findings from 34 countries on six continents suggest that survival is higher in societies that provide more support and care for one another. We suggest that this support reduces mortality by meeting urgent material needs, but also that sharing generosity may reflect the strength of social connectedness, which itself benefits human health and wellbeing and indirectly raises survival.