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Study finds older people prefer to support charities in own country


Older adults around the world are more willing to donate to charity than younger people, but will prioritise charitable organisations operating within their own country, research has found.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Birmingham, University of Oxford and University of Vienna is published in Nature Aging. It saw researchers question 46,500 people aged 18-99 across 67 different countries during April-May 2020.

The research also showed that older adults had stronger self-reported preferences for people in the same country, and were more likely to report identifying with their country and agree more strongly with statements such as “My country deserves special treatment”.

Participants were given a hypothetical amount of money, equivalent to the average daily income in their country. They were then asked how much they wanted to keep and how much they would be willing to donate to a charity helping victims of the coronavirus pandemic in their own country or a charity helping abroad. They were also asked how much they had been complying with guidance to social distance, as well as a range of questions asking about their personality and wellbeing.

The researchers found that older adults in almost all countries across the world reported that they would donate more money overall compared to younger adults. These findings remained the same when researchers accounted for other factors that change with age, such as people’s wealth. However, when the researchers looked at donation amounts to the national and the international charities separately, they found that younger people gave more equal amounts to the two charities whereas older people gave less internationally.

Senior author Dr Patricia Lockwood, also in the University’s Centre for Human Brain Health, said:

“As countries, including the UK, are announcing cuts to foreign aid budgets, there will be an increasing reliance on global charities. Understanding the giving preferences and inclinations of different age groups could therefore be extremely important in planning campaigns and appeals.”


“Increased prosocial behaviour – generosity and distancing – is shown around the world for older adults compared to younger adults. However, whom people are willing to help seems to change as people age. As the challenges of the 21st century become increasingly global in nature, and rely on people helping others, it is vital we understand how different age groups might respond.”

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