A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, takes a closer look at the benefits of volunteering to the health and well-being of volunteers, both validating and refuting findings from previous research.
The results verify that adults over 50 who volunteer for at least 100 hours a year (about two hours per week) have a substantially reduced risk of mortality and developing physical limitations, higher levels of subsequent physical activity, and improved sense of well-being later on compared to individuals who do not volunteer.
“Humans are social creatures by nature. Perhaps this is why our minds and bodies are rewarded when we give to others. Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn’t just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others, helping us feel a sense of purpose and well-being, and protecting us from feelings of loneliness, depression, and hopelessness. Regular altruistic activity reduces our risk of death even though our study didn’t show any direct impact on a wide array of chronic conditions,” explained lead investigator Eric S. Kim, PhD, Department of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Harvard University.
The growing older adult population possesses a vast array of skills and experiences that can be leveraged for the greater good of society via volunteering. While proposing further research to better understand this phenonmena, the study recommends the adoption of policies that encourage more volunteerism. Such interventions could simultaneously enhance society and foster a trajectory of healthy ageing in the rapidly growing population of older adults.
Click here to read the full story published in Science Daily.