Volunteering not only gives to others; it gives to your health
Most people get involved in volunteering to give back to their community. Over the past two decades, there’s been more and more research that supports the idea that volunteering benefits your health as well as your community.
The research has shown that people who regularly volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater physical abilities, like flexibility and stamina, and lower rates of depression, especially later in life.
A large study with an ethnically diverse sample of older adults in the United States found those who volunteered to help support others had lower rates of mortality (lower amounts of deaths in a certain demographic) than those who didn’t volunteer, even when controlled for education, marital status, age, gender and other differentiating factors.
While volunteering in your community is great, a study showed even supporting friends, family and neighbours has the same result.
Volunteering can enhance your social networks to help buffer stress and reduce risk of disease. It can also give you a sense of purpose which helps keep you from becoming isolated, especially during tough times in life.
For retirees, volunteering is particularly beneficial. The loss of their major roles, that of wage-earner and parent, can have a significant impact on self-esteem and willingness to participate in life. Some retirees isolate themselves while they’re adjusting to their new role as a retired person. Volunteering, particularly when it’s started prior to retirement, can keep that isolation at bay and help the transition to the new role in their family and social circles. Researchers have also found statistically significant, positive relationships between volunteering and lower levels of depression for those over 65.
There are even studies that suggest there’s a relationship between volunteering and lower rates of Alzheimer’s Disease. Volunteering appears to help keep the brain active and elastic.
Studies have suggested the benefits of volunteering are more pronounced in the Baby Boomer generation because for many younger people, particularly high school students, the ‘volunteering’ is an obligation rather than actually being a choice. But for those younger folks who take on volunteering without being pushed into it, the benefits can still be seen.
Volunteering is a good thing. It gives back to your community in so many ways and it also promotes a healthy life.