Volunteering boosts mental health and helps you live longer

Doing good for others is also doing good for yourself. (istockphoto.com/chrisbrignell)

Volunteering has more of a feelgood factor than initially believed: people who volunteer report lower levels of depression and higher levels of life satisfaction. They’re even more likely to live longer, too. That was a key finding in a study carried out at the University of Exeter.

The review found a “20% reduction in mortality rates” among those who volunteer compared with those who don’t. Anecdotally, volunteers have said they feel benefits to their self-esteem and wellbeing by offering a helping hand. The study backs this up with scientific evidence. However, it also warns that too much volunteering can have the opposite effect, and people can begin to feel burdened.

Dr Suzanne Richards, who led the study, said: “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. 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.”

Volunteering rates are 22.5% in Europe, 27% in the US and 36% in Australia.

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