As an avid volunteer knows, you feel good after you help out a worthy cause. Now, according to the Dutch information analytics company Elsevier, it appears that volunteer work could be beneficial not only for your moral well-being but also for your health.
The study took information from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of older (Aged 40+) adults in the US. This research examined the data of nearly 13,000 participants over the course of 2010 to 2016. During this period of time, it was shown that those who volunteered at least 100 hours per year – an average of 2 hours a week – had a substantially reduced risk of death, as well as a lower risk of developing physical limitations. They also had higher amounts of physical activity in addition to reporting an improved sense of well-being when compared to non-volunteers.
Now, to be fair, there are some limitations. The study didn’t confirm any connection between volunteer work and chronic conditions. So if you struggle with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, or any other permanent condition, don’t expect that you’ll begin to see improvement by adding a few hours of volunteer work to your schedule.
It’s also important to mention that the published paper doesn’t appear to mention the wealth status of the researched volunteers, as those with more wealth are also more likely to have the time and resources available for volunteering.
For older volunteers, providing their wealth of experience to those in need can be deeply rewarding on an emotional level. Our communities are always in need of well-informed and skilled people who can provide a deeper understanding of the issues they face. These issues, whether as complex as homelessness or as simple as building and maintaining a community garden, are always going to require a person with experience to lead and assist.
So while more study needs to be done, there appears to be a strong relationship between a long life and volunteer work. Do what you can to go out and help your community, not just for others, but for yourself!