A quick Google search can find numerous articles and scientific studies that indicate that volunteering is good for our health. This is more particularly so for people over the age of 50.
Some of the health benefits of volunteering include:
Lower Blood Pressure
A study from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to have problems with high blood pressure than non-volunteers. One of the researchers concluded that volunteering might increase the physical activity in people who would otherwise be inactive and this, in turn, could reduce stress and improve heart health.
The Stony Brook University School of Medicine surveyed more than 4,500 Americans and found that volunteering had an impact on sleep. The survey indicated that volunteers have less trouble sleeping, less anxiety and better friendships and social networks.
A study from the University of Michigan looked at the mortality rates of altruistic volunteers and found that those who volunteered regularly had a lower mortality rate than non-volunteers and those who volunteer for self-interest reasons.
Studies have shown that those who volunteer have a similar physical experience to people who exercise vigorously or meditate. This is because the body releases ‘feel-good’ endorphins during positive social contact with others. There was a ‘catch’ associated with achieving this ‘high’. To gain the benefits, the volunteers needed to be involved in direct contact with other people and must be altruistic, without a selfish motivator, like money, being involved.
Numerous articles suggest there are even more benefits to be gained from volunteering which contribute to better health and wellbeing. Some of these include:
- Increased levels of physical activity
- Increased satisfaction and optimism
- A greater sense of purpose
- A more positive outlook on life
- Increased social connection
- Increased cognitive function
- Decreased levels of depression and anxiety.
Some of these studies also pointed out that, the health benefits of volunteering were achieved by volunteering for 200 hours per year, (4 hours per week).
Imagine what a difference it would make in our world if everyone over 50 volunteered for 4 hours a week! Not only would our society benefit from the skills and experience being injected into our communities but the volunteers themselves would experience improved health, reducing the burden on our medical system.
People who volunteer do so for a number of reasons. The primary reason is often that they want to make a difference or help others, but it is also OK to gain some benefits for ourselves. Sometimes the satisfaction of knowing that we are helping someone provides sufficient benefit in itself. The additional benefits of volunteering then become an added bonus.
At Wimmera Southern Mallee LLEN we have volunteering opportunities that have the potential to improve the health of our volunteers:
- Our Reading Buddies program provides the opportunity for volunteers to listen to children read, on-on-one for an hour a day, one or more mornings a week in a local school.
- Our MATES Mentoring Program matches adult volunteers with young people in local schools. Mentors catch up with their mentee for one hour a fortnight for a whole year. This small amount of time (just 24 hours over a whole year) can make an enormous difference in the life of a young person.
Whether you are over 50 or under, we would love to hear from you if you would like to make a difference in a young person’s life.