Being a volunteer is good for a number of reasons, but one very good one that you may not have thought about is your heart. Eric S. Kim is a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-author of a recent study into this matter. What he discovered was that volunteers are more likely than not to use preventative health care services such as getting an annual flu shot or having regular cholesterol level checks.
In 1992 more than 7,000 adults aged over 50 took part in the Health and Retirement study. Previous results from the same study showed that those who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year were found to have greater increases in physical activity and psychological well-being. They were also found to be less likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure over a for year period than those who chose not to volunteer.
Another ongoing study which focus on the health benefits of volunteering is the Baltimore Experience Corp Study. Having started back in 1995, this study now operates in multiple cities across the USA and pairs adults aged 50 plus with public school students who have problems with reading. Results from the study found that Experience Corps volunteers were found to be less depressed, walk more steps, have better thinking skills, and were able to cope much better with everyday tasks compared to those in the control group.
How well people connect with their surroundings and local community can make a huge difference. “For example, when you’re more connected to your community, it’s easier to get information on things like how to find out the best deals on fresh vegetables, or where to get a free flu shot. People also provide one another emotional support,” says Kim. Another added benefit of volunteering is that is can give people a greater sense of purpose and/or direction in life. Anger, stress, and depression are all factors that have a negative effect on the body, particularly when it comes to the risk of cardiovascular disease.
According to research, having a sense of purpose in life promotes better heart health above simply having optimism in life. In 2016 a report was compiled that took the findings from 10 previous studies on this subject and found that those people with a sense of purpose in life had a much lower chance of suffering from cardiovascular problems such as a heart attack or stroke than those who did have a sense of purpose.
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer there’s various opportunities to be found online. It’s a great way to help others, promote good health, and make you feel good all at the same time. Here’s a few to get you started:
The Corporation for National and Community Service: This is a federal agency that invests in various nonprofit organisations in the local communities that help older people live independently, provide support to veterans and military families, rebuild communities after disasters have struck, as well as mentoring and tutoring at-risk youths.
Experience Corps: This organisation seeks to recruit and train older adults who can then go on to tutor young children that are struggling to read. They’re currently operating in 22 cities across the nation.
Volunteer Match: Connecting people to volunteer opportunities that are available in their area and that match their skills is what this organisation is all about. Some of the things they help out with include assisting immigrants and refugees and helping animals.