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Donating your kidney to a stranger can lead to better mental wellbeing, study reveals

23 July 2021

People who donate their kidney to strangers who would die without a transplant experience better mental wellbeing for up to six years after surgery, says a study published today in a British Psychological Society journal.

This study was undertaken by Emma Massey and colleagues* from Erasmus Medical Centre, Netherlands and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.

Lead author Emma K. Massey said:

“Donating a kidney to a stranger is a major life event and some professionals question the impact of this undertaking on mental health.

With a lack of research in this area our study looked at the positive and negative aspects of mental health among for donors up to six years following the procedure.”

A total of 114 donors (donated in the years 2000-2016, 54 per cent female) took part in interviews and completed questionnaires relating to psychological complaints, autonomy, personal growth, social acceptance and life satisfaction.

Analysis of the results shows that with appropriate screening donating a kidney to a stranger can be a positive influence on your mental wellbeing.

Emma Massey continued:

“Our study is on the largest cohort of this type of donor so far and shows that donating a kidney to a stranger is associated with better mental wellbeing than in the general population. Many said how good it felt to contribute positively to society, how it gave them a boost and our findings suggest they flourish after a donation.”

“They reported experiencing positive emotions, a sense of being involved and having contributed to society. Placed in the context of Keyes’ model of mental health, our findings suggest that those who donate to strangers are ‘flourishing’ after donation.”

*Full list of authors: 

Emma K. Massey, PhD, Mathilde C. Pronk, Willij C. Zuidema, Willem Weimar, MD, PhD, Jacqueline van de Wetering, Department of Internal Medicine, Nephrology & Transplantation, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Sohal Y. Ismail, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Medical Psychology & Psychotherapy, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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