Not only is volunteering a great way to get involved and give back to your community, but it can also have a variety of health benefits.
Here’s the Facts About Volunteerism
The mental health benefits of volunteering have long been recognized. Those who donate their time have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being and happiness. Growing evidence suggests that those who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health.
- In a study on volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults, published in Psychology and Aging in 2013, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found evidence of the physical effects of volunteerism. Their work showed that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, and premature death, than non-volunteers.
- The Corporation for National and Community Service reports that people who volunteer after a heart attack experience a reduction in despair and depression, factors that have been linked to an increased likelihood of death in heart attack patients.
- On college campuses where students gave above-average amounts of time to volunteer projects, students also had 26 percent less risk of binge drinking.
In 2018, 77.34 million Americans (30.3 percent) volunteered, with more than 6.9 billion volunteer hours being recorded. Statistically, women consistently volunteer at higher rates than men do and younger adults (ages 35 to 54) volunteer at a higher rate than retirees. But, experts agree that the benefits apply to all.
A Variety of Volunteer Activities and Health Benefits
The health benefits are as varied as the activities; from strength training and weight loss to creating lasting relationships to lower rates of depression.
Hands-on activities: Theses activities include gardening, building houses, roadside and park cleanup etc. and the health benefits include breaking a sweat and burning calories, which can lead to weight loss, strength training and increased muscle mass.
Serving on a board: Make impactful decisions about a cause or organization you care about. Health benefits include higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and lower levels of depression.
Working directly with constituents: Examples of these activities are serving at a soup kitchen, volunteering with kids, tutoring or assisting with political campaigns and the health benefits include lasting relationships, lower rates of depression, a sense of purpose.
So, how much time does it take to benefit from volunteering? Some research shows that investing 100 volunteer hours per year is the threshold you need to reach to experience optimum health benefits. If you don’t have much this much time to spare, just get started doing a few hours a month volunteering— doing a little might spur you to become more involved.
How to Get Started
Not sure how to get started? There’s no time like the present. Volunteering today will make you feel better tomorrow.
Discover what you’re passionate about
- The best way to find what volunteer work excites you the most is simple: volunteer. Try a soup kitchen or park cleanup, the more varied activities you do, the easier it will be to discover what you’re passionate about.
Check local listings
- Many local organizations – such as churches and community centers – have volunteer opportunities posted on community bulletin boards and online.
- Searching for “volunteer” and your “city and state” will give you countless options to choose from.
- Or, try calling nonprofit organizations in your area that interests you.
- Websites such as volunteermatch.org help connect you with any opportunities that sync up to your interests and are in your area.
Find an organization that lights you up and needs you.