Volunteering is Good for Your Health

Publication Date: 
Tues, 12/01/2015
By: Alere Staff

  The benefits and power of serving others as a volunteer has been studied for hundreds of years.1 The consistent theme that emerges from these studies is the irony that those who serve almost always receive even more benefits than those who are served. Volunteers describe both tangible and intangible rewards. The fulfillment, satisfaction and feeling of making a difference for others are desired end results that often motivate people to get started with volunteering. Problems are solved, lives are improved and communities are strengthened. Everybody wins.

Often volunteers are a bit surprised at some of the more tangible perks they realize in their efforts of helping others. Rich friendships and social connections that can be long-lasting and provide fun and fulfillment are valued rewards they list. Individuals, young and old, learn new skills and develop experience that can boost their careers.2 In fact, volunteering has become a critical component of several executive training programs.1

The health benefits of volunteering are a “hot topic” in research.  People who volunteer demonstrate an improved sense of well-being, lowered stress levels, are overall physically healthier and importantly, happier! One government study reported that research demonstrates volunteering leads to better health, stating that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.1,3  This same study also found that older volunteers, those 65 and older, receive greater benefits from volunteering. One of the reasons for this may be that volunteering provides them with both a physical and social activity, giving them a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles may be changing.3

Better health from volunteering? Everyone can help out and get these benefits. No special skills are required. All that is necessary is a positive attitude, compassion, an open mind and a willingness to do whatever is needed. Martin Luther King once said:

“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (sic) You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

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References:

  1. Horoszowski, M. 5 Surprising Benefits of Volunteering. Forbes. March 19, 2015. Retrieved from website: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2015/03/19/5-surprising-benefits-of-volunteering/.
  2. Saisan, J., M.S.W. et al. Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits: Helping Others While Helping Yourself. HelpGuide.org. September 2015. Retrieved from website:http://www.helpguide.org/articles/work-career/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm.
  3. Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy Development.The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007. Retrieved from website: http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf.