According to a new review – the simple act of donating some time to volunteering could improve your mental health and help you to live longer.
In a recent review published in the journal BMC Public Health, researchers looked at data from 40 previously published papers. Interestingly, the experts found evidence suggesting that individuals who volunteered had a 20% lower risk of death than individuals who did no volunteering. On top of this, volunteers also had lower levels of depression, higher life satisfaction and a greater sense of overall well-being.
Whilst additional research will need to be conducted in order to gain an understanding of the link between volunteering and both physical and mental health, the authors of the study noted the following:
“It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place. The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them,” explained review leader Dr Suzanne Richards, from the University of Exeter Medical School.
Volunteering percentages vary greatly worldwide, with recent figures estimating that the number of adult volunteers stands at around the following:
· 23% in Europe
· 27% in the United States
· 36% in Australia.
So why do people give their time up for free?
In today’s fast paced and expensive society, some individuals would argue that they can barely find the time to clean their teeth or the money to pay their bills – so why are so many individuals now sacrificing their personal time and earning potential to volunteer?
Those who do volunteer frequently cite contributing to their community or showing their support for a charity or an organisation that supported them as common reasons. Other reasons include to gain work experience or to expand their social circles. Whatever the reason, in the case of volunteering it seems that the old adage ‘what goes around comes around’ rings true. Give up your free time to do something for someone else, and you could see a benefit to both your physical and mental health.
So how about it? Would you, do you or have you volunteered? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.