The Health Benefits of Volunteering

Submitted by Kay Rosenthal PhD, RN-Guest blogger, EPNRC Volunteer

The Health Benefits of Volunteering

April is National Volunteer Month!  Hope you are out there volunteering!  Not just for the organization but for yourselfJ  Did you know there are health benefits to volunteering!  Not just feeling good …but physically – feeling good!

“Older volunteers are most likely to receive greater health benefits from volunteering. Research has found that volunteering provides older adults, (those age 60 or older), with greater benefits than younger volunteers.

These benefits include improved physical and mental health and greater life satisfaction. In addition, while depression may serve as a barrier to volunteer participation in mid-life adults, it is a catalyst for volunteering among older adults, who may seek to compensate for role changes and attenuated social relations that occur with aging. (Li and Ferraro, 2006; Van Willigen, 2000)

Volunteers must meet a “volunteering threshold” to receive significant health benefits. When considering the relationship of the frequency of volunteering to improved health benefits, researchers have found that there is a “volunteering threshold” for health benefits. That is to say, volunteers must be engaged in a certain amount of volunteering in order to derive health benefits from the volunteer activities. Once that threshold is met, no additional health benefits are acquired by doing volunteering more.

The definition of considerable volunteering has been variously defined by these studies as 1) volunteering with two or more organizations; 2) 100 hours or more of volunteer activities per year; and 3) at least 40 hours of volunteering per year. (Oman et al., 1999; Lum and Lightfoot, 2005; Luoh and Herzog, 2002; Musick et al., 1999)

Volunteering leads to greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression. Evidence indicates that volunteering has a positive effect on social psychological factors, such as a personal sense of purpose and accomplishment, and enhances a person’s social networks to buffer stress and reduce disease risk. (Herzog et al., 1998; Greenfield and Marks, 2004; Harlow and Cantor, 1996) …..

RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS Studies of the relationship between volunteering and health demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between volunteering and good health: when older adults volunteer, they not only help their community but also experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or lower rates of depression. “

So if you aren’t out there volunteering already– start making calls- there are plenty of organizations in Estes Park that need you to be a volunteer. You’ll be happy and healthy as a result.  Take care, K

For the full document go to

Tips for Volunteering

Below are general tips for individuals interested in volunteering, as well as broken down by specific age category.
10 Tips on Becoming a Volunteer (32 KB PDF)
Tips for Youth Who Want to Volunteer (30 KB PDF)
Tips for Boomers Who Want to Volunteer (30 KB PDF)
Tips for College Students Who Want to Volunteer (31 KB PDF)
Tips for Families Who Want to Volunteer (29 KB PDF)

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