Michigan Association of Health Plans

Benefits of volunteering: It’s good for your health

This story appeared in Priority Health’s ThinkHealth blog. Read more here

Evidence suggests that people who regularly volunteer are rewarded with better physical and mental health.

Not only is volunteering a great way to get involved and give back to your community, but it can also have a variety of health benefits.

Here’s the Facts About Volunteerism

The mental health benefits of volunteering have long been recognized. Those who donate their time have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being and happiness. Growing evidence suggests that those who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health.

In a study on volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults, published in Psychology and Aging in 2013, Carnegie Mellon University researchers found evidence of the physical effects of volunteerism. Their work showed that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, and premature death, than non-volunteers.

The Corporation for National and Community Service reports that people who volunteer after a heart attack experience a reduction in despair and depression, factors that have been linked to an increased likelihood of death in heart attack patients.

On college campuses where students gave above-average amounts of time to volunteer projects, students also had 26 percent less risk of binge drinking.

In 2018, 77.34 million Americans (30.3 percent) volunteered, with more than 6.9 billion volunteer hours being recorded. Statistically, women consistently volunteer at higher rates than men do and younger adults (ages 35 to 54) volunteer at a higher rate than retirees. But, experts agree that the benefits apply to all.

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