Volunteering is a good way to help others, but a new study says it’s also a good way to improve your health and extend your life.
Through a review of existing research, the Corporation for National and Community Service says it has identified strong connections between volunteering and physical and mental health.
“The Health Benefits of Volunteering” analyzed the findings of more than 30 studies, focusing on those that delve into the relationships between volunteering and physical and mental well-being.
People who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who don’t, the report says, even when controlling for factors like gender, age, socio-economic status and physical health.
Volunteering also tends to boost individuals’ sense of purpose and accomplishment, the study says, and the social networks developed through volunteering can help lower stress and diminish disease risk.
The benefits are more pronounced for people age 60 and older than for younger volunteers, the study says.
To reap the health benefits of volunteering, volunteers must give a “significant” amount time, defined in one study as 100 hours a year and in another as volunteering with two or more organizations.