Volunteering is good for the community. It helps those in need and performs vital services (e.g., cleaning up green spaces or feeding the homeless), but did you know that volunteering can also help improve your overall mental outlook?
In a 2013 study, UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute released a study they conducted on the effects of volunteering on volunteers. The study relied on personal reporting and asked volunteers a series of questions to measure stress level, health, personal engagement, and engagement in decisions regarding their healthcare. The goal was to find out if volunteering made for happier people who would then become happier, more productive employees. The study involved over 3,300 adults in the United States. The results?
- 76% of people who volunteered in the past 12 months said that volunteering made them feel healthier
- 94% of people who volunteered in the past 12 months said that volunteering improved their mood
- 78% of people who volunteered in the past 12 months reported lower stress levels
Importantly, those people who volunteered in the past 12 months also scored higher than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being, including strong interpersonal relationships and a sense of satisfaction with life.
From the study: “Volunteering isn’t just something healthy people do. Everyone can reap benefits. Our study involved a representative sample of adults across the country: young, old, in good health and in poor health. Remarkably, we see older individuals and those who suffer from multiple chronic conditions taking on volunteering—and feeling better as a result.”
Spending time in your community helping those in need builds a sense of connection with the people around you, both strangers and friends. Being able to help create something with others also helps to highlight those connections and make you feel supported in your own life.
In addition, volunteering is good for your body. Another study by the University of Michigan Research Center saw patients with a history of cardiovascular issues improve their cardiovascular health and blood pressure by volunteering. Volunteers also enjoy a longer life span and better cognitive health throughout their lives than non-volunteers.
Connection to the community, less stress, improved mental outlook, and a healthy body: these are the benefits of volunteering. To find an organization and a cause in your area, visit Volunteer Match today!
Image by State Farm via Flickr