Study Shows Volunteering Helps Kids’ Wellbeing

Youth who volunteer are helping others and themselves.

Teenage volunteers are happier and healthier.


Many people know how important volunteering and giving back to your community is but they might not know that it is good for you too. Volunteering helps people feel more socially connected and comes with a host of health benefits.

Now a new study, published in JAMA Network Open shows that kids and teens who volunteer through a school, community group, or religious organization also boost their own health and wellness.

The study showed that the youth, aged 12 and older, who volunteered were also 25 percent less likely to have anxiety than their peers that didn’t, according to Time Magazine, and 35 percent were less likely to have behavioral problems.

About the study
These positive findings came from a survey that was given to the parents of more than 50,000 kids in the US, ages 6 to 17. About half of the parents reported that their kids volunteered.

The parents also answered questions about the demographics like the health and activities of the kids and the income and the household income and religious affiliation of the family.

More than 80 percent of the parents surveyed lived in metropolitan areas and above the poverty line. Only 25 percent had any involvement in religion. While these results may have been skewed, the results are still very encouraging in a time when rates of anxiety and depression are rising amongst youth.

What does volunteering do for youth?
Examining  why volunteering has health and wellbeing benefits is something that can be implemented for at risk kids who are falling through the mental health cracks. The rates of depression in kids and teens are rising, according to a report from the CDC, and more than 40 percent of US highschoolers felt sad or hopeless in 2021.  

While rates were going up before the pandemic, the lockdown conditions made a bad situation worse. “[This] data echoes a cry for help,” CDC acting principal deputy director Debra Houry, MD, MPH said in the report.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”

That’s where volunteering can help. But for volunteering to be effective for youth, it should be part of a routine and not just around the holidays or due to a natural disaster, cautions Parents.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen or food drive can help kids see and experience empathy and compassion for others. Others find a sense of purpose from volunteering and this can give them a greater sense of self-esteem.

But the greatest asset of volunteering is that it helps youth feel healthier and happier according to the organization HelpGuide. That’s because the social aspect of volunteering helps youth feel more satisfied and that can give them a happiness boost. So get your kids out volunteering, they will be helping others and themselves.

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