Volunteerism – Its’ Good for Your Health!

When it comes to volunteering, it is true what they say: “What goes around comes around.”  It looks like the positive actions of volunteerism, comes back to the volunteer in the form of improved emotional and physical health as well as longevity. 

In fact, if done for the right reasons, studies show that volunteerism contributes to lower mortality rates.

A number of independent studies (including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke) have been conducted in recent years that show a significant relationship between volunteering and the health benefits afforded the volunteers:

  • Greater longevity
  • Higher functional abilities
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower incidence of heart disease
  • Benefits beyond medical care for chronic and serious illnesses
  • Chemical releases that give the ‘Happiness Effect’

Studies show that the most benefit comes to older individuals.  It is suspected that this is because it provides sense of purpose to those who have lost major role identities, such as parent or wage-earner.  Older adults, over 50, realized 44 percent lower mortality rates over a 5-year period than older individuals who did not volunteer.  “Helpers High”, defined as, ‘The sense of elation and increased energy that often follows helping others’, is achieved by the release of same chemicals as from physical exercise.

Preliminary studies show a level of considerable commitment is required, 1- 4 hours per week.  However, going above and beyond the Volunteering Threshold does not appear to add additional benefits. Further research is being conducted on the Volunteering Threshold – exactly how much volunteerism matters. 

So, if it is happy, healthy and long you want to live, eat well, exercise and give from the heart by volunteering!