Does Donating Blood Make You Live Longer?

by Emma Cueto

Good news for all the do-gooders of the world. According to a new study, frequent blood donors live longer than people who don't give blood. So basically, giving blood not only helps other people — it might also help you. The Red Cross should really make that their slogan or something.

The Danish study, conducted by researchers at Copenhagen University, was originally meant to see if donating blood came with any long-term negative health consequences. Although the short-term side effects of blood donation are well known — fainting, light-headedness, etc. — those symptoms go away relatively quickly. Researchers wanted to know, though, if regularly giving blood might be bad for you in the long run, so they looked at millions of donors in both Sweden and Denmark. And what they found was that not only did regular blood donors as a group not seem to suffer as the result of donation, they actually had an average life expectancy greater than non-donors.

My reaction to the results was first and foremost relief," study author Henrik Ullman of Copenhagen University said. "Given that those who have donated a lot live longer than those who have donated a little, there is no evidence there is anything dangerous about donating blood."

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He added, "The study can be used to reassure blood donors and the blood banks. It says that it appears to be healthy and safe to donate."

In fact, there's even a small it might even, in some way, be good for you. It's difficult to know for sure, of course — after all, people who give blood are screened for disease, meaning they are bound to be healthier as a group than the population as a whole — but the fact that regular donors seem to live longer than infrequent donors is suggestive, though of course it might just be that generous, civic-minded folk who are the sort to regularly give blood just have a better life expectancy than the rest of us.

Either way, it seems that you can — and should — participate in your local blood drive without fear that it might harm your long-term health. So donate away!