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A habit to help: starting early may increase chances of volunteering later in life

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Posted November 25, 2017

Volunteering is actually a great opportunity to do good to the community and to yourself. You can gather experience, expand your social networks and find new friends while working for a better cause. However, not many people volunteer. Scientists now conducted a study and found that the best way to introduce people to volunteering is to start them young.

If you start volunteering before 10 years old, it is more likely you will continue participating in social activities as an adult as well. Image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have found that those people who started volunteering at younger years were twice as likely to develop a habit of social action. In other words, those who were introduced to volunteering as children are more likely to volunteer as adults. Scientists analysed responses from over 4,500 young people (3,300 of them had been involved in youth social action programmes in the past year) and found that the critical age is 10. Those who start volunteering under the age of 10 are more likely to evolve a social habit than those who start at 16-18.

How do you make children volunteer? Well , you don’t “make” them volunteer – strong support networks and school programs can help children make that decision and enjoy doing some social work. Interestingly, females were more likely to develop this habit of participating in social activities and they worked in a larger variety of activities – women are more likely to participate in helping their local community, volunteering or mentoring. Scientists say that this knowledge can help them to change volunteering policies to encourage more people when they are younger.

People often find excuses to get themselves out of volunteering – lack of time, skills and confidence are just some of them. However, others develop it as a habit and volunteer throughout their school, university and later in life. Those who have this as a habit are also more likely to have their family and friends participating in similar activities. Dr Tom Harrison, co-author of the study, said: “These findings will help those in the voluntary sector plan and deliver youth social action programmes that support young people to cultivate a habit of service. The more people who contribute to the common good, the more likely we are to flourish as a nation”.

Volunteering is beneficial to everyone. It benefits the community, but also makes the person feel good. The most important thing this research is emphasizing is “habit” – having a habit to help others will get you very far in life.

 

Source: University of Birmingham

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