Volunteering Could Extend Life

New study links volunteering to significantly lower mortality
July 1, 2020 Updated: July 1, 2020

A new study is showing that volunteering could have life-extending benefits. For those looking to get involved in their community, the benefits extend beyond enriching the area they live in.

Volunteering has the potential to improve the lives of others as well as yourself. On a personal level, it can lead to a greater sense of purpose, connection, and well-being,

The new study was conducted by researchers at the Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The results were published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Researches tracked 13,000 people aged 50-plus who were participating in the U.S. Health and Retirement Study. They were observed for a four-year period sometime between 2010 and 2016.

They found that adults who volunteered 100 hours or more a year had a 44 percent reduced risk for mortality and a 17 percent reduced risk of impaired physical function compared with those who didn’t volunteer.

The models used in the study adjusted for socio-demographics, physical health, health behaviors, psychosocial factors, and personality.

“Humans are social creatures by nature,” said Eric Kim, the study’s lead investigator. “Perhaps this is why our minds and bodies are rewarded when we give to others.”

The study found volunteers were less likely to develop physical limitations than those who didn’t volunteer. They also reported higher levels of activity and greater well-being.

What’s interesting is that although the benefits of life extension, mobility, and better mental health were observed, volunteering didn’t show any direct impact on chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, pain, and more.

The activity and fulfillment a person may acquire from volunteer work and all that it offers may be a way to manage these conditions so they take less of a toll. It is really hard to say.

There are several ways you could volunteer and get involved in a cause that serves your community or a goal that you believe in. Using your skills can create a positive impact with many secondary benefits.

Because social distancing measures are still recommended, volunteering may take on a slightly different look these days, though you can still find organizations you believe in needing help.

Volunteer work can help you live longer and feel better by relieving stress, decreasing the risk of depression, giving you physical and mental exercise, offering a sense of purpose, and introducing you to new friends.

Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for Bel Marra Health, which first published this article.