Volunteering could lengthen life

Volunteering could lengthen life


People who volunteer report having lower levels of depression and higher levels of well-being than average, while some research suggests it promotes a longer and healthier life.

A review of 40 academic papers on the subject by University of Exeter researchers found that volunteers are a fifth less likely to die within the next four to seven years than average.

Across the studies volunteers had lower self-rated levels of depression and higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction, although this has not been confirmed in trials.

It is thought that volunteering can be good for the physical health of older people in particular, by encouraging them to stay active and spend more time out of the house.

Volunteers often explain their motives in terms of wanting to "give something back" to their community, but without receiving anything in return the reported improvements in quality of life are harder to explain, experts said. An estimated 22.5 per cent of people in Europe devote part of their spare time to volunteering, compared with 27 per cent in America and 36 per cent in Australia.

Dr Suzanne Richards, who published her systematic review in the BMC Public Health journal, said: "Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause.

"It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place."




By Nick Collins


The Telegraph, 23rd August 2013




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