We all know that volunteering has a positive impact on our communities and our world, and that it tends to give us that warm, fuzzy feeling (also known as “helper’s high”). But did you know that volunteering can also provide health benefits?
According to the Mayo Clinic, older adults tend to benefit most from the positive repercussions of volunteering, both mentally and physically. These benefits include:
- Decreased risk of depression: The social interaction, helper’s high and sense of purpose has been found to decrease depression in adults, especially those 65 and older. Volunteering allows people to build a support system and to interact with people who have similar passions, creating depression-defeating good vibes.
- Skill development: Whether you’re volunteering in a niche that you’re familiar with, using one of your talents, or jumping into something brand new, you are bound to learn new skills or continue to hone skills you already have by volunteering. Learn how to sew, pick up a new language, learn about different facets of healthcare or try your hand at organizing a charitable event. Learning something new is a great mental and physical challenge.
- Staying mentally active: This is especially important for older adults, as volunteering requires brain power and, often, your physical presence. It keeps you moving, keeps you thinking and, therefore, many volunteers report better physical and mental health.
- Live longer: According to the Assets and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old Study, those who volunteered for at least 100 hours per year were two-thirds as likely as non-volunteers were only two-thirds as likely as non-volunteers to report bad health. Additionally, a study from the Americans’ Changing Lives survey found that volunteers over 60 years old had higher levels of self-reported health. Studies have found lower mortality rates in volunteers, as well as decreases in pain for those with serious or chronic illness.
- Form relationships: Volunteering is one of the best ways to find your tribe! Whether you’re an older adult or a millennial, new to town or have been there your whole life, it’s important to find people who share your values.
The benefits of volunteering go far beyond just the person you are actively helping. Simply put, doing good feels good – on your body and your brain! What are some of the benefits you’ve experienced from donating your time and talents to a cause you care about?