A recently released study from the Rotman Research Institute has shown that the effects of volunteering go beyond just feeling better and happier about yourself, they affect your health as well! This is the first study of its kind and it shows a correlation between health and volunteering, though not to that those who don’t volunteer are unhealthy. By studying all existing previous studies about psychosocial health benefits that arise from volunteering for older people, this newest study shows there is most certainly a benefit. To qualify, the studies had to measure psychosocial, physical, and mental outcomes from formal volunteering. In total, 73 studies that were published over the course of 45 years were examined during this most recent study.
What the study of the studies found was surprisingly impressive but most likely known to those who volunteer on a regular basis. Volunteering was associated with a number of positive health effects including a reduction in depression and depressive tendencies, greater longevity, and the ability to function better (i.e. move with less restriction). The study also pointed out that those who benefitted the most were those who were the most at risk. The older and sicker you were, the more volunteering helped you. The study also found out that there is a plateau to the benefits that volunteering brings. After about 100 hours a year (2-3 hours a week), the benefits seem to no longer appear in subjects. While the study focused solely on older (aged 50+) adults, I’m sure the results can be applied to people of all ages. After all, mental health directly affects physical health.
If you’d like to read more, the link is here.