The health benefits of volunteering

People choosing to give up their time to help others may find their health benefits as a result. This is because new research published by the American Psychological Association in its journal Health Psychology has shown individuals who volunteer may live longer than those who do not.

Investigators noted this was true of individuals making such selfless gestures due to altruistic values or social connection reasons, but not of those volunteering for their own personal satisfaction.

Lead author of the report Sara Konrath, of the University of Michigan - which was founded in Detroit in 1817 - explained: "This could mean that people who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay."

Co-author of the study Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis suggested that while it is reasonable for people to give up their time for their own benefit, this should not be the main reason for doing so.

Ruth Lowry, a Chartered Psychologist and member of the Society's Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, recently told this website:

"Long term volunteering is a form of pro-social behaviour that involves commitment given over an extended  period of time Research also suggests that volunteering is reciprocal, the charity or organisation can benefit from an increased and diverse workforce whilst the individual can benefit by increasing their competencies, skills and self-worth.However, if volunteers can see the personal benefits, they are more likely to continue volunteering in the longer term."

Read more about the benefits of volunteering.

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