Volunteering may help you live longer
Published on 23 August 2013 03:30 PM
Volunteering not only enriches the lives of others, it can also improve your physical and mental wellbeing.
Researchers pooled a large amount of data from 40 scientific papers into the long-term effects of charity work, revealing that people who volunteered had their risk of dying reduced by as much as 22%.
The study also showed that people who volunteer benefit from various improvements in mental health. Those who gave up their time to help others were less likely to suffer from depression, plus they had higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing.
But despite the findings, scientists are still unclear about what lies behind the benefits of volunteering.
Volunteers less likely to suffer from depression
'It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place,' said study leader Dr Suzanne Richards, from the University of Exeter.
'Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause.
'The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them.'
Australia appears to be one of the biggest nations for volunteering, with 36% of the adult population doing their bit for charity. In comparison, 22.2% help out in Europe while 27% give up their time in the US.
Volunteers typically cite motives, such as ‘giving something back' to their community or supporting an organisation that has helped them. Other reasons included gaining work experience or finding new friends.
Too much volunteering, however, can become a burden and create other problems for those involved. For instance, the researchers found that if volunteering gives nothing back to the volunteer its positive effect is limited or negated.
Copyright Press Association 2013