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Volunteering has benefits for mental health of older people

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Posted August 11, 2016

Volunteering, doing good to others without any payment, is extremely good way to spend you free time. It is really something that makes a change and feels rewarding. Now scientists from the University of Birmingham and the University of Southampton found that volunteering is especially good for older people.

Volunteering at the age of 40 or older brings significant mental health benefits and a sense of wellbeing. Image credit: Virginia State Parks staff via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

Volunteering at the age of 40 or older brings significant mental health benefits and a sense of wellbeing. Image credit: Virginia State Parks staff via Wikimedia, CC BY 2.0

In other words, scientists found that starting to volunteer later in life contributes to person’s mental health and wellbeing. This is very interesting, because usually younger people choose to spend their time volunteering, when these effects are observed only at 40-year-old or older volunteers. These findings show that there is a need of more volunteering programs for middle-age people. It is important to encourage them, because this activity would help them as much as the people or organization they would be helping.

The research took the data from over 66,000 responses by British adults to questions posed through the British Household Panel Survey. They found that around 21% of these people took part in some kind of volunteering program, although women were volunteering more. However, the most surprising findings are related to age, as scientists noticed that positive correlation between volunteering and good mental health appears only after person becomes 40. Of course, it means that people should be encouraged to volunteer more, but such opportunities are not always available for everyone and everywhere.

There can be several explanations, why volunteering provides this sense of wellbeing. Scientists say that volunteering helps creating social bonds. Dr Faiza Tabassum, one of the authors of the study, said: “Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, particularly for those people who have lost their earnings, because regular volunteering helps contribute to the maintenance of social networks, and this is especially the case for older people who often live in isolation”.

This research only captures the effects of formal volunteering, but proves that people who do choose to participate in such activities. However, it shows that more volunteering programs are needed as everyone wins. Furthermore, although these effects are only observed with older people, youth should not hesitate either, because it helps gathering experience and spending time in a community-benefiting way.

Source: birmingham.ac.uk

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