The health benefits of volunteering

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Volunteers make an immeasurable difference in people’s lives. The act of volunteering also benefits one’s health. Research shows that volunteering offers significant health benefits, especially for older adults. Here are the top three:

Improves physical and mental health

Volunteer activities get people moving and thinking at the same time. Research shows that volunteering among adults 60 and older benefits physical and mental health. Volunteers reported better physical health than non-volunteers. Volunteering leads to lower levels of depression and anxiety, especially in people 65 and older.

It reduces stress and increases positive, calm feelings by releasing dopamine in the brain. By spending time serving others, volunteers report experiencing a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.

Reduced stress further reduces the risk of certain physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness. In addition, people who volunteer have lower death rates than those who don’t, even when controlling for age, sex, and physical health.

Provides a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills

The work that volunteers provide is essential to day-to-day activities, giving volunteers a sense of purpose, especially when they give their time and talents to areas they feel are meaningful. Older volunteers experienced greater increases in life satisfaction and self-esteem.

In addition to volunteering at libraries, schools, and food pantries, many people volunteer at local hospitals. They serve as greeters and attendants in the waiting room, provide patient room information and directions, and assist in transporting patients and patient supplies.

Other volunteers use their craft skills to make prayer shawls, blankets, sweaters and hats, which are usually given to newborn babies and cancer patients. Other services volunteers provide include working in the hospital’s gift shop, performing clerical duties for staff, or offering pet therapy to patients.

Nurture new and existing relationships

Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests. One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity. Social circles can shrink in retirement, so building or expanding networks can be especially important during this phase of your neighbor’s life.

In many cases, volunteers have different experiences, which helps expand their social network and allows them to practice social skills with others.

As you may have gathered from your own experience, people are motivated to volunteer for several reasons. They may explore careers, hone skills, meet new people, serve their communities, or stay active in retirement. Yet all volunteers share a common desire to improve the health and well-being of people in their communities.

2023 Mayo Clinic News Network. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Quote: The Health Benefits of Volunteering (December 9, 2023), Retrieved December 9, 2023, from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-12-health-benefits-volunteering.html

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