Health and wellness is not just about making yourself feel better. Healthy individuals build healthy communities, which in turn facilitate wellness in a cycle of beneficial living. And a large part of building a healthy community is volunteering. In 2015, Americans volunteered 7.9 billion hours of time, contributing $184 billion of free labor. That type of commitment makes a difference, and that difference is not merely quantified in a dollar figure. To volunteer is to make a change.
Renewed Sense of Purpose
Numerous studies outline the positive mental health effects of volunteering, particularly among older populations. As the Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) wrote, volunteering gives many in the retired community a renewed sense of purpose. “Formal volunteering moderates the loss of a sense of purpose among older adults who had experienced the loss of major role identities, such as wage-earner and parent,” the corporation quotes.
But it goes beyond a simple feeling. Depression rates are significantly lower among retired people who volunteer. The reinvigorated feeling you get from helping others isn’t just some meaningless sentiment, it is a signal from your body that you are doing better.
And the “better” is even further-reaching than your mind. According to a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon, volunteering has been shown to positively affect your physical wellness. The study reported that those who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who rarely or never volunteered. Simply put, those who volunteer live longer than those who don’t.
Admittedly, volunteering may not be the only health factor at play in the Carnegie Mellon study. As Stephanie Watson of Harvard Women’s Health Watch noted, “People who volunteer may be more likely to do other things, like eat a healthy diet or exercise, that lower blood pressure.” But this isn’t the only significant study to find that volunteers live longer. Scientific findings quoted by the CNCS stated a similar conclusion to that of the Carnegie Mellon study, emphasizing that volunteering improved physical health, “even when controlling for previous health conditions.”
Volunteering is good for everyone. The community receives a much needed boon, and the volunteers get a unique sense of fulfillment.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and it is not meant to be relied on as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult your physician before starting any exercise or dietary program or taking any other action respecting your health. In case of a medical emergency, call 911.