Volunteering, who benefits?

Social to the core

Humans are social creatures. Depriving a person of human contact is torturous. It also impedes their cognitive and physical development. We need connections! And we need lots of it.

Our communities

Communities take many shapes and forms. Most of us are part of many distinct communities. Friends, family, sports, religion, hobbies, work and other activities all provide communities. Both the number and the strength of those relationships can impact our health. How do we do that?

Why volunteer?

Volunteering can strengthen our connections to our community. But people who volunteer experience health benefits.
  • Teens who volunteer wait longer before becoming sexually active and are less likely to become pregnant. This is even true with high-risk youth.
  • College students who volunteer drink less alcohol.
  • Seniors who volunteer live longer, and
  • Adults who volunteer have less physical aches and pains.
These links have all been found in research. These statistically significant difference were found even when factoring in things like other health choices and socioeconomic status. It seems to be that volunteering really does make a difference to our health!

How are these benefits possible?

Helping others causes us to be happy. Happiness and other positive emotions reduce the levels of stress-related hormones in our bodies. And we all know that stress has a huge negative impact on our health!
But what about the other health benefits, like decreased drinking? Volunteering makes us feel useful and can increase our sense of belonging. It can help us gain skills, and increases our sense of empathy and acceptance of others. These are all key factors in self-esteem. The health benefits experienced by teens and college students who volunteer may be related to increased self-esteem.

Do we need to start young?

We are never too young or too old to start volunteering. Even before they are physically able to help, 9-month-old babies will point at hazards and help adults to solve problems. Young children feel happy when they are being useful. Happy children are more likely to form relationships and connections with others. They are more likely to start to see themselves as effective and worthy. And this is in addition to the benefits that come with just being a part of a community!

You may be thinking your family has no time, or your kids are too young to volunteer. But maybe there is a way…stay tuned!

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