Science Shows Volunteering is Good for Your Health

Altruistic acts help seniors live healthier lives.

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It’s official, altruistic acts like volunteering can help seniors live healthier lives. Now, a study from Harvard University found that older adults who volunteer for even two hours a week can become more physically active and have a better sense of wellbeing than people who don’t.

The study’s findings were based on surveys and interviews from 13,000 participants, over the age of 50, in the Health and Retirement Study of older US adults according to a news release from the university. While it has been a  common belief that there are health benefits to volunteering, now it is official.

There was a four-year follow up period where participants who volunteered showed a lower risk of mortality and a lessening of physical impairments as well as an increase in physical activity according to the study that was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The people who took part in the study also had other positive outcomes including more optimism and purpose in life as well as a decrease in feeling lonely.

“Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn’t just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others and helping us feel a sense of purpose and wellbeing,” study co-author Eric Kim, research scientist in Harvard’s department of Social and Behavioral Sciences said in the news release.

The findings of this study are even more vital due to the recent lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Now might be a particular moment in history when society needs your service the most. If you are able to do so, while abiding by health guidelines, you not only can help to heal and repair the world, but you can help yourself as well,” said Kim.

Fortunately, there are ways to virtually volunteer in these trying times. There are many ways to volunteer without ever leaving home. One way is to man a mental health or suicide prevention line. Another way is to telephone, Skype, or WhatsApp elderly neighbors who are socially distancing or quarantine.

If you can get out to volunteer, food banks really need to help to distribute food to the much higher numbers of people who need help as do animal shelters since most of their volunteers are elderly and cannot go in person.

Another way to volunteer is to participate in Good Deeds Day which will be held on April 11, 2021. There is a myriad of volunteering ideas both in person or virtual on the site.  No matter how you do it, take the time to volunteer. It really is good for you.

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