The Health Benefits of Volunteering

The Health Benefits of Volunteering

by Posted on: April 15, 2013Categories: LiveWell 24/7   

It’s no surprise that lending a hand makes us feel good— after all, a smile on someone else’s face can be contagious. Yet studies suggest volunteering provides more than just emotional benefits; it can make us healthier, and even tack on some extra birthdays.

Volunteering can also be a mental pick-me-up, since it helps reduce anxiety and depression in some people. (Plus, it’s a better solution than drowning sorrows in a six-pack.) And altruism—unselfish acts of kindness— can also spark a smile. The key is to expect nothing in return; one study found people who volunteered for selfless reasons and to create valuable relationships decreased their risk of mortality. On the other hand, those who volunteered to feel good (or show off to the boss!) didn’t experience the same benefits.


While studies suggest the benefits of volunteering are more significant among the elderly, there’s a reason to start helping out before our AARP subscription starts. Research shows consistently volunteering over time can lead to improved well-being and health. Plus, getting out of the house and on our feet keeps us active, and may help burn off a holiday cookie or two. Try dancing with senior citizens, or dive in the pool with youngins at the YMCA.

Just remember that the reason for volunteering, not just simply doing the deed, matters too. So leave obligation behind and volunteer if there’s a genuine desire—it’s a win-win scenario for all involved!


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