Want to Live Longer? Volunteer
Now that we’re a couple weeks into 2017, it’s time to ask how your New Year’s resolutions are holding up—particularly if your goal is to be healthier than you were in 2016. If that’s the case, we’ve got just one piece of advice for you: Volunteer!
According to Doing Good Is Good for You, a study conducted by UnitedHealthcare:
- 76% of people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months said that volunteering made them feel healthier.
- 78% of people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months said that volunteering lowered their stress levels.
- 80% of the people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months felt that they had control over their health.
- 94% of people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months said that volunteering improved their mood.
The study also found that volunteering helped people manage chronic illness better, which certainly makes sense, because if your mind is on helping other people with their problems, it’s less time spent thinking of your own.
It also makes sense that volunteering would help combat depression—it helps keeps you in regular contact with others, thereby keeping feelings of isolation in check.
Another UnitedHealthcare study, in conjunction with VolunteerMatch, found that Americans who volunteer rated their levels of immunity, physical strength, overall energy, and physical stamina higher than those who did not volunteer. Volunteering also corresponded to a healthier BMI, with a “significantly lower proportion of volunteers identified as obese.”
And other recent studies focused on older Americans have shown that volunteering increases brain function, and decreases the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, which in turn decreases risk of stroke and heart disease.
Youth can benefit from volunteering as well: A study of Canadian high schoolers determined that regular volunteering reduced cardiovascular disease risk factors in teens.
Long story short, volunteering helps both your mental and physical health. And best of all, the UnitedHealthcare/VolunteerMatch study has determined that it only takes a couple of hours per week of volunteering annually to reap the health benefits of being charitable with your time.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get healthy!