Volunteering your time, money, or energy to help others doesn’t just make the world better—it also makes you better. Studies indicate that the very act of giving back to the community boosts your happiness, health, and sense of well-being. Here are four scientific benefits of lending a hand to those in need.
Helping Others Can Help You Live Longer
Research has shown that volunteering can improve health in ways that can lengthen your lifespan—volunteers show an improved ability to manage stress and stave off disease as well as reduced rates of depression and an increased sense of life satisfaction—when they were performed on a regular basis. This might be because volunteering alleviates loneliness and enhances our social lives—factors that can significantly affect our long-term health.
Helping Others Makes Us Happy
One team of sociologists tracked 2000 people over a five-year period and found that Americans who described themselves as “very happy” volunteered at least 5.8 hours per month. This could be the byproduct of being more physically active or because it makes us more socially active. Researchers also think that giving back might give individuals a mental boost by providing them with a neurochemical sense of reward.
Helping Others Lowers Blood Pressure
One piece of research showed that older individuals who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year decreased their risk of hypertension by a whopping 40 percent. This could possibly be because they were provided with more social opportunities, which help relieve loneliness and the stress that often accompanies it.
Helping Others Gives Us a Sense of Purpose and Satisfaction
Looking for more meaning in your day-to-day existence? Studies show that volunteering enhances an individual’s overall sense of purpose and identity—particularly if they no longer hold a life-defining role like “worker” or “parent.”