Random acts of kindness: the science
18th August 2022
Hannah Ridgley, Director of Culture & Kindness

Random acts of kindness: the science

Do you believe in acts of kindness? Where do you sit on the scale of kindness cynic to kindness king/queen?

I am passionate about leading with kindness and empathy at work and at home. At KVA, we believe that when you are a kind, empathetic person at work, this kindness is infectious and multiplies, spilling out into your home life too. The power of positivity is real!

Some may think that kindness is a fluffy, unimportant aspect of daily life; something they can do without which is de-prioritised to the bottom of their to-do lists. But did you know that there are scientifically proven benefits of being kind?

Kindness has been shown to increase:

  • Happiness: Based on a study across 136 countries, happiness has been shown to increase by being altruistic: having a selfless concern for the wellbeing of others1
  • Lifespan: A study showed that people aged 55 and older who volunteer for >1 organisation, have a 44% reduction in the risk of dying early. This study removed other contributing factors, such as physical health, gender, lifestyle habits and more. The reduction seen in this study is greater than that associated with exercising four times a week2
  • Pleasure: Otherwise known as the ‘helper’s high’. When you are kind to someone, your brain responds in the same way as if you were receiving the kindness: win win!3
  • Serotonin: Kindness acts like a medical antidepressant stimulating the production of serotonin, keeping us feeling happy and calm, as well as supporting our immunity4
  • Oxytocin: Witnessing acts of kindness increases oxytocin which has a powerful effect: lowering blood pressure and increasing self-esteem and optimism, which all help to reduce symptoms of anxiety5

 And kindness has been proven to decrease:

  • Stress: Habitually kind people age slower than the rest of the population, and have up to 23% less cortisol in their bodies, a study of 500 people found6
  • Anxiety: After one month of carrying out at least six acts of kindness a week, a group of highly anxious people saw a significant increase in positive mood and relationships, and a decrease in avoiding social activities7
  • Depression: When we carry out selfless acts for others, our life satisfaction and physical health is significantly improved, reducing depression and prolonging our lifespan8
  • Pain: Kindness increases endorphins which are the body’s natural pain killer9
  • Blood pressure: See oxytocin above. Oxytocin initiates the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels and decreases blood pressure. For this reason, oxytocin is known as the cardioprotective hormone10


So, taking all of the above into account, what do we think about kindness being prescribed to treat the above conditions? In the UK, stress alone costs the NHS over 165,000 bed-days a year, which equates to £71 million.11 High blood pressure costs the NHS a staggering £2.1 billion each year.12

Such a simple thing as kindness, could save the UK’s national health service a substantial amount of money annually, allowing these savings to be channelled back into other much needed services, such as funding for additional nurses and doctors.

Elsewhere in the world, Professor Len Berry, an oncologist in the USA, published his research into the roles of kindness in cancer care in the Journal of Oncology Practice. He concluded that kinder care leads to better outcomes in cancer patients.13 It seems that using kindness as a preventative and reactive treatment can have huge benefits for us all.

I hope that this vast array of evidence has helped to move some of you from being kindness-cynics to kindness kings or queens. We will certainly continue to live by our values at KVA: Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Kind, and we hope that many of you will join us on this journey.


  1. https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/11-038_0f1218f0-91b3-4bae-8054-0fca25be5736.pdf
  2. https://www.amazon.com/Raising-Happiness-Simple-Happier-Parents/dp/0345515625/
  3. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_helpers_high
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-face-adversity/201211/practicing-acts-kindness
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/science/24angier.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9737736/
  7. https://psych.ubc.ca/news/kindness-may-help-socially-anxious-people-relax-says-new-research-by-dr-lynn-alden/
  8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7840821_Altruism_Happiness_and_Health_It's_Good_to_Be_Good
  9. https://www.medicaldaily.com/random-acts-kindness-sweet-emotion-helping-others-dopamine-levels-383563
  10. https://drdavidhamilton.com/the-5-side-effects-of-kindness/
  11. https://neweconomics.org/2018/05/stressed-economy-stressed-society-stressed-nhs
  12. https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/24/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure/
  13. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320439113_Role_of_Kindness_in_Cancer_Care