Health Benefits of Volunteer Work
Do you do volunteer work? If you do, then good for you! Many of us, perhaps even most of us, have thought about volunteering our time for needy people or needy causes. But, somehow, excuses and reasons always crop up. ‘Next time’, or ‘one day’, are typical thought processes.
Besides helping others who are in need, volunteerism also gives ourselves a big boost. And we’re not just talking emotionally or mentally, but in terms of physical health, too. The wise men are correct – when we give, we receive, too.
Study Says Volunteering Improves Health
by Reuben Chow
They say that when you give, you receive. How true is it, or is it just some airy statement championed without logic or reason? There is good news, health-wise, for frequent volunteers and givers – empirical evidence is mounting, it seems, in favor of the whole notion. In a study carried out at Purdue University, it was found that regular volunteers have better cardiovascular health as well as lower blood pressure than their non-volunteering counterparts. Significantly, they also had fewer signs of depression.
Older persons seem to benefit more
Led by Kenneth Ferraro, who is a sociology professor studying health and volunteering and the director of Purdue’s Center on Aging and the Life Course, the study also found that the health benefits were more pronounced in older persons – 65 years and above, as compared with those aged 45 to 64.
“The older adults who were engaged in regular volunteering had slower increases in physical disability, and they stayed independent and physically active for a longer period of time. We believe that social engagement is essential to their well-being,” said Dr Ferraro.
In the 8-year long study, the study team had looked at whether regular formal volunteering cumulatively impacted mental and physical health positively. This cumulative effect is a possible explanation why older and longer term volunteers experienced more benefits.
Or perhaps older persons, with reduced activity as they wind down on their careers and become physically less able, simply need the social interaction more than younger and still very much active persons. In any case, three things we can learn here are – volunteering is good for health, long-term volunteering is even better, and older persons benefit more from it.
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