Volunteer: It’s good for your health

National Community Service studies link volunteer time with improved health.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, there are many health-related benefits to volunteering. Over the past two decades there have been several studies showing evidence that volunteering is good for your health. Not only does the research include the positive feelings volunteers experience, there is evidence of improved physical health as well.

According to a 2007 report, there are different health benefits for volunteers of different age groups. There are also correlations with the amount of volunteering and the amount of positive affects to one’s health.

Volunteers who volunteer at least 100 hours a year, or an average of two hours per week, benefit the most from the volunteering experience. Many volunteers report a “helper’s high.” But there is a volunteer threshold, and after the threshold is met there are no additional health benefits.

People that volunteer often report greater life satisfaction than non-volunteers. It has also been reported that volunteers experience a decline in chronic pain and report less depression than non-volunteers. Some studies even reflect that states with higher volunteer rates have lower heart disease rates.

Many studies on the effects of volunteering and health report volunteering has a positive effect on physical and mental health, especially in older volunteers. Their volunteering experiences often give these volunteers a sense of purpose, keeping them active in their communities and helping to give them a sense of belonging. It also helps them maintain strong social ties.

This is great news for the baby boomer generation. As many approach retirement, many will be seeking opportunities to volunteer in their communities. Many of these baby boomers come with professional skills that can be used to benefit their entire community and their personal health. 

There are many volunteer opportunities available in your local community. For opportunities to volunteer with 4-H, contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.