Health Benefits of Volunteer Work
Formal volunteering may be necessary
Notice that, when volunteering was mentioned above, the word “formal” was attached to it. In other words, when we are talking about health benefits, it seems that structured and formal volunteering work is needed.
According to Dr Ferraro, formal volunteering usually involved non-profit organizations with well-defined tasks as well as time frames for volunteering. Participants are also made part of social networks sharing common goals. On the flip side, informal volunteering, for example helping a family member or a neighbor, “can swell into major obligations (and) introduce stress. It’s a good way to help, but people may be spending hours per week and not getting much recognition for their efforts,” he added.
What stops people from volunteering? Could poor health be the reason in the first place?
Could it be possible that healthier people are more likely to volunteer in the first place? In tackling this question, the study team tried to examine the factors which held people back from volunteering. And they discovered that depression was the main barrier for middle-aged people volunteering on a sustained basis, while it was older persons who found physical health to be their main barrier.
“But what was really striking, is that the older adults, even when they face some depressive symptoms, continue volunteering. It may be that people who are feeling blue [...] seek out an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and use that as a way to reduce those depressive symptoms. Our problems seem less significant when we start helping others. It’s paradoxical, but as you give, you receive,” said Dr Ferraro.
A good round-up, indeed.
Study: Volunteers enjoy long-term health benefits (http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/2008/12/06/20081206giveback1206ferraro.html)
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