People who support their favorite causes or organizations by volunteering undoubtedly help others. However, a growing body of research suggests that donating time actually improves the health and well-being of the person who volunteers. Although much of the research has uncovered benefits specifically among older people, volunteers of any age set good habits and make lifelong connections that may keep them living healthy longer.
Here are just some of the health benefits of volunteering.
1. Volunteering boosts your mental health
Giving your time to others improves your levels of happiness, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, according to a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. By connecting with others with similar passions and devoting your time to bettering an issue close to your heart, volunteers gain a sense of greater purpose in the world. That sense of purpose can elevate your mood and contribute to overall life satisfaction.
2. Volunteering helps you live longer
Research conducted at the Buck Center for Research in Aging found that senior citizens who volunteer experienced a 63% lower mortality rate than people who didn’t volunteer. Seniors in the study donated time to at least two organizations to enjoy the extra years of life.
3. Volunteering reduces chronic pain
The mental benefits of connecting with others and finding a sense of purpose through volunteering helped participants in one study alleviate their chronic pain. The 2002 research published by the American Society of Pain Management Nurses found that pain experienced by study participants increased slightly before volunteer training, but then dropped after training and volunteering.
4. Volunteering decreases your risk of heart disease
Volunteering at least four hours a week lowers your blood pressure, which can also protect against heart disease, according to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers attributed the drop to the increased social connections gained from volunteering your time.
5. Volunteering makes you feel healthier
Although feeling healthier may or may not actually make you healthier, it never hurts to feel good. A 2013 study completed by the UnitedHealth Group found that 76% of U.S. adult volunteers say the charitable involvement makes them feel healthier. That may be due to the 78% of adults who say volunteering alleviates stress.
What’s your favorite cause for volunteering?
Image by Billy Brown via Flickr