Volunteering…. Help Yourself by Helping Others




Can helping others help ourselves?

Most of us know that if we eat our fruit and veggies, exercise often, and avoid smoking, we have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives. But your doctor may not have told you that regularly giving to others should perhaps be added to that healthy checklist. A new paper led by Dr. Suzanne Richards at the University of Exeter Medical School reviews 40 studies from the past 20 years on the link between volunteering and health. The article, which is freely available in the open access journal BMC Public Health, finds that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22% reduction in the later risk of dying.

Why is volunteering good for people’s health? Here are three reasons:

1)      Any activity is good activity. Volunteering means getting off the couch and out of the house, so it makes us stronger and more physically fit. More physically fit people tend to deal with stress better, which can help them live longer lives.

2)      Social connections can be good for us. We are hard-wired for face-to-face contact that includes lots of touch, eye contact, and smiles. Such interactions release a hormonecalled oxytocin, which helps us to bond and care for others, and also helps us to handle stress better. Volunteering is a good way to meet others, make friends, and bond over common beliefs and goals.

3)      It just feels good. Volunteering can give us a deep sense of happiness and meaning, which is also associated with longer and healthier lives.

Who is most likely to benefit from volunteering?

1)      Research finds that volunteering only has health benefits for people who do it in order to help others, rather than to help themselves. So please pick a cause you care about and do it with your heart.

2)      Research finds that volunteering can actually be harmful for people who volunteer too much. How much is too much? So far, we don’t have solid answers on that question. But if your volunteering job is starting to become more of a burden than a blessing it’s time to scale back.

If you want to live forever, I can’t help you with that. But if you want to live a longer, happier, and healthier life, take all the usual precautions that your doctor recommends, and then … get out there and share your time with those who need it. That’s the caring cure.



Psychology Today
Everyday Health


  1. ShannaArchie

    Your website is great.

  2. Camil

    great article

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