We see people becoming volunteers for a wide range of reasons, but the majority agree on the fact that they do it with an unselfish, self-sacrificing approach. This can make us feel good, but just how exactly has volunteering been proven to provide a positive impact on our health?
Obviously one of the key points that people identify with when it comes to volunteering (volunteering abroad included) is the idea that becoming a volunteer will help those who can’t help themselves. This could not be truer, because every volunteer programme has the best interests of people who they will be helping at heart. There is an emotional connection that volunteers make, often before they have even left for their trip and this kind of positivity is great for improving the state of mind and general mental well-being. We want to delve deeper into what makes volunteers healthy by, well, being a volunteer, and there have been a host of studies that cite how volunteering can be good for your health, both mentally and physically.
Research conducted by Ghent University established that those who volunteered were as healthy as people five years younger than their age, compared to non-volunteers. They also found that volunteering activities on a CV provide more employment opportunities, which, of course, is great for self-esteem! Additional research highlighted that there’s such a thing as ‘volunteer therapy’ (the act of volunteering is good for mind and body) and it can aid in; strengthening your body, boosting your mood and lessening your stress levels.
Furthermore, the act of being a volunteer was seen to assist people living with serious illnesses too. They reported that they felt their health improved after what we previously referred to as ‘volunteer therapy’.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg, and while it might seem like a slightly self-centred topic, it’s important to remember that volunteering helps everyone involved in a programme, which is what makes it such a special thing to be part of. In fact, a range of other health benefits have been tied back to those who do and/or have volunteered.
Let’s take a look and see what they are…
1. Lowered Levels of Anxiety and Depression
The basic nature that encompasses volunteering; assisting other people when they need it most, is a simple thing but seems to do so much good – including helping to lower anxiety and depression among those who devote their time to this unpaid role. Research claims that some volunteers have improved faster, find themselves sleeping better and enjoy the benefits of a healthier immune system compared to those who don’t or who have never volunteered.
2. Improved Heart Health
The University of Michigan Research Center published research that highlighted how volunteers with heart-related issues noted a lowering of their chest pains along with a reduction in their cholesterol levels to that of non-volunteers.
3. Lengthier Lifespan
A report into older adults who chose to volunteer on a regular basis came back with results that showed they had a higher chance of enjoying a longer life than people that have not, or don’t volunteer.
We now know that there is some science and research behind volunteering and the beneficial effects it has on the mind and body of those who choose to devote their time to helping others. Isn’t that just a wonderful thing? You think you’re signing up to go and influence the lives of others in a positive fashion and help them in as many ways as you can, but in doing so, you’re also strengthening your own well-being!
We know that, to many people, these studies and their findings won't influence whether they volunteer or not – they’re going to do it anyway – but, it’s an added extra to know that you could live longer and enjoy a healthier existence as a result of being a volunteer, isn’t it?
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