Evidence is growing that volunteering in good for your health, especially for older adults.
Dr. Nicole Anderson, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, led a team that examined 73 studies published over the last 45 years that focused on adults age 50-plus who held formal volunteering roles.
“Our goal was to obtain a more comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge on the benefits of volunteering among older adults,” said Anderson, who is also an associate professor at the University of Toronto. “We discovered a number of trends in the results that paint a compelling picture of volunteering as an important lifestyle component for maintaining health and well-being in later years.”
The team found that volunteering helps reduce symptoms of depression, enhances better overall health, accounts for fewer functional limitations, and increases longevity. They discovered that health benefits may depend on a moderate level of volunteering, with the optimal time being about 100 annual hours, or two-to-three hours per week. People with chronic health conditions may benefit the most from volunteering, and feeling appreciated and needed helps a volunteer’s psycho-social well-being.
“Taken together, these results suggest that volunteering is associated with health improvements and increased physical activity—changes that one would expect to offer protection against a variety of health conditions,” Anderson said.