Did you know volunteering can make a meaningful difference on your personal health? According to many studies, volunteering has proven benefits for your own physical well-being.
We’ve put together a very convincing list of health benefits that will have you off the couch and out volunteering in no time:
- Volunteers live longer. You couldn’t ask for a better reason to volunteer. A recentreview on the effects of volunteering found that people who volunteer on a regular basis have a 22% decrease in mortality. This same study also showed people who volunteer were less depressed, had improved overall well- being and increased satisfaction with life, which are pretty great reasons too.
- Volunteering improves cardiovascular health. Being “big-hearted” can help you have a healthier heart no matter what your age. A study by Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. High blood pressure is an important indicator of health because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
Another study by JAMA Pediatrics studied a group of high school sophomores and found the students who volunteered as little as one hour a week had lower body fat, cholesterol and inflammation levels as opposed to the group that didn’t volunteer at all. This is an important study because cardiovascular health is leading cause of death in the U.S. and the first signs begin in the teen years.
- Volunteers experience less stress. It may be the distraction of doing something else that takes the focus away from our own problems for awhile or perhaps the actual volunteer experience makes us more grateful for our lives and what we have. United Health Group recently conducted a large study linking volunteering to better health. The findings showed reduced stress in volunteers with 78% of people who have volunteered in the past 12 months saying volunteering has lowered their stress levels.
- Volunteering helps fight depression. Helping others makes us happy and it just feels good. Volunteering also gives people an opportunity to connect with others and bond over common interests which is important as a key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering gives purpose to our lives and knowing that people need you and want you is a pretty good reason to get out of bed in the morning.
- Helping others improves your own physical fitness. The UnitedHealth Group study mentioned above found that that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer report that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. Being in good shape goes hand in hand with the other benefits of volunteering.
There is science behind all these “feel good” benefits. When you volunteer you feel useful and altruistic. This results in your brain producing oxytocin and progesterone which are essentially “good feeling” chemicals but are also known to curb stress and reduce inflammation.
There is a lot of evidence out there that shows if you choose give back, you get a lot back in return.