This April, the BHP blog is highlighting one of the many benefits of volunteering. This week we are focusing on the way volunteering benefits one’s physical and mental health.
A growing body of research proves the mental health benefits of volunteering. Studies have shown that volunteering helps people feel more connected to their community, and thus wards off feelings of loneliness and depression. In fact, research has shown that volunteering can ward off depression, especially in those 65 years or older. Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on those with common interests–– both of which are factors that decrease depression. Additionally, volunteering also helps reduce stress; shifting one’s focus can help put your own problems in perspective.
Not only does volunteering benefit one’s mental health, but also one’s physical health. A 2013 study done by Carnegie Mellon University concluded that adults over 50 who volunteered on a regular basis are less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. In the Carnegie Mellon study, 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure. Other studies have found a health benefit from as little as 100 hours per year. Though there has not been research done on what type of volunteering is the most effective, many researchers speculate that mentally stimulating activities (like tutoring and reading) are best for maintaining critical thinking skills and volunteering that promotes physical activity is best for cardiovascular health.
What are you waiting for?
Jessica Kaplan, Bucknell University, Class of 2021 Intern