There are a number of benefits to volunteering including that positive feeling one gets, a better sense of trust, and increased socialization to name a few.
But did you know that volunteering can result in improved physical and mental health? Research by the Corporation for National and Community Service substantiates these benefits.
These findings show that if you are over 60 years of age, the effect on your physical and mental health is greater than if you are a younger volunteer. The studies also show that the earlier in life you start to volunteer the better. Studies show that these folks who volunteer at early ages in life have better functional levels and better health outcomes later in life.
The research does indicate that volunteers must contribute time at certain levels in order to reap the “healthy” benefit of volunteering. Giving two hours of time once a year will not do the trick. One study showed that persons who volunteered 100 hours or more per year met the threshold to manifest improved health because of volunteering. Now if you do the math that means that one needs to volunteer just 1.92 hours per week. Not a bad investment for better health.
Other benefits to volunteering include a greater satisfaction with life and lower rates of depression. For those of us over 60 that is important. As we retire from jobs that may have been our identity, we need to find a new sense of purpose and self. More than one longitudinal study indicated that those who do volunteer throughout life live longer.
The moral here is if you want better health, greater longevity, higher functional levels, or lower rates of depression as we age; you need to volunteer. You are never too young or too old to start.
For more information on how you can give, advocate and volunteer, contact me at 913-371-3674, extension 1308 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find more opportunities by checking out the website at www.unitedway-wyco.org.
Diane Hentges is director of the Volunteer Center at the United Way of Wyandotte County.