For part one of this story, click here.
A 2012 study from the Health Psychology journal found that altruistic volunteers will live longer than their non-volunteering counterparts. Additionally, a national survey of 4,500 American adults–the 2010 United Healthcare/Volunteer Match Do Good Live Well Study–uncovered that those who volunteer have been known to experience less trouble sleeping, less helplessness and hopelessness, less anxiety, a stronger sense of control over chronic conditions, and better friendships and social networks.
Some have even gone so far to say that if the positive effects of volunteering could be bottled up and sold, the inventor would be a billionaire. In terms of using volunteering as a means to manage chronic pain, Stephen Post, founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, believes “if you could say that on a scale of 1 to 10, insulin as a treatment for diabetes is a 9.5, drugs for Alzheimer’s disease are 0.05, volunteering is somewhere up around a 7.”
One of the main theories behind volunteerism as a marker of improvements in physical health is that it leads to boosts in self-esteem and prevents individuals from becoming socially isolated, which have both been long connected to better health. Additionally, certain volunteering activities can expose participants to environment and circumstances that may humble their own, reducing stress and unhappiness, which have been known to reduce cardiovascular risk in adults.
We don’t have to be adults to benefit from volunteering and regular acts of kindness, as a recent study of high school sophomores at a Vancouver high school who spent just sixty minutes of their time each week helping children in after-school programs had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol as well as a lower body-mass index over a period of 10 weeks.
However you give, whether it’s your time, energy, money, attention, clothes, etc, make sure to give meaningfully. Give to help others, not to help yourself, and the reward will be more than worth it!
“We are on the cusp of reaching the point where we are going to see more areas in clinical care, including preventative medicine, psychiatry, adolescent pediatrics, geriatrics, pain clinics and cardiology, where health care professionals recommend volunteering as a therapeutic behavior.” -Stephen Post.