Volunteers give selflessly to enrich the lives of others. Their contributions to charities, companies and organizations like our hospital are immeasurable. As a society, we benefit from their selfless acts. But what if there were health benefits to the volunteer? What if by helping others, we could help ourselves. Research has shown that volunteering leads to lower levels of depression, especially in those volunteers over 65. Getting involved can result in increased social interaction and overall satisfaction.
In 2013, a study looking at volunteering and high blood pressure. Researchers found that adults over 50 who volunteered about four hours a week were 40 percent less likely than non-volunteers to have developed high blood pressure after four years. Another study in the same year looked at helping others and the effect on stress and death. It showed that doing good deeds like running errands, babysitting for family and friends reduced stress and people lived longer.
Volunteering may not only add life to your years but years to your life. A Study of Aging found that individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not, even when controlling for age, gender and physical health.
When we do something good for someone else, certain chemicals are released in the brain including, oxytocin and endorphins (the “I feel good” chemicals). It can cause a helper’s high, which can also reduce the stress chemicals such as cortisol. Similar to that burst of energy and enjoyment that runners get midway through a run.
Like the flu or Covid-19, the volunteer bug is contagious as friends and family who witness this change are often likely to try and emulate it. Volunteering as a family or group can be a fun and rewarding activity! So start today. Volunteer your time. Your health may improve. Take care of yourselves and each other.