This week is Volunteer Week. Being a volunteer is a great way to give something of yourself to a favourite charity, cause or community – but as well as being good for those organisations, volunteering is also good for the health of you, the volunteer.
In April, a research study in the US polled more than 2,700 volunteers aged 18 and over and found that 75% of those who had volunteered in the past year felt ‘physically healthier’ – even as the result of as little as two to two and a half hours volunteering each week.
More than a third said that participating as a volunteer helped them to manage chronic illness, compared to those who had not volunteered over the previous year.
The same study found that 93% of those who volunteered reported an improvement in mood, 79% had lower stress levels, and 88% experienced an increase in self-esteem as a result of ‘giving back’. Participants in the study also reported a better quality of life including more capacity to enjoy socialising and the development of deeper friendships.
There were perceived benefits for working participants too – they found that through volunteering, they were able to develop better professional skills, manage their time more efficiently and work more effectively as a team member.
Another study found that volunteering gave workers a change in perspective which helped to generate new ideas and problem-solving skills.
Even more evidence shows that it’s never too late to start volunteering, and that there are positive benefits for older volunteers. A study involving 64,000 people over the age of 60 found that volunteering can enhance cognition, with individuals who volunteered for 100 hours a year scoring around six per cent higher on average in cognitive testing, compared to those who had not volunteered.
So, use Volunteers Week as an excuse to find a good cause to support as a volunteer – it’s a ‘win-win’ for everyone involved.