Donating your time to others has benefits that reach far beyond the profound satisfaction of helping those in need. A comprehensive analysis of the benefits of altruism conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) established decisive correlations between volunteering and improved physical health, increased longevity and lower rates of depression. The federal agency scrutinized dozens of recent scientific studies on the subject and found that investing time in giving back to others was particularly beneficial to the Baby Boomer generation.
Baby Boomers: 77 Million Strong
According to the CNCS report, Boomers are donating their time to others more than any earlier generation. The agency predicts that by the year 2020, 13 million people over the age of 65 will participate in volunteering activities. The 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 are a well-educated population with multiple skills and talents that can help alleviate some of the nation's most challenging social problems.
Notably, the CNCS analysis found that the satisfaction that Boomers feel when donating time to others was stronger among retirees than among those who continue to work for pay. When it comes to mental health, the study found no significant relationship between easing depression and volunteering among people under the age of 65, but for those older than 65, there were lower rates of depression.
Health Benefits of Giving Back
Researchers believe that a reduction in stress is the primary reason that dedicated volunteers live longer than those who don't donate their time. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that those who do not volunteer are more likely to die from stress-related diseases than those who provide help to others. The physical activity involved in volunteering also helps Boomers experience better mobility, endurance and strength.
When it comes to improving your emotional health, it truly is better to give than receive. A 2003 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine found that after an act of altruism, the giver enjoys even more of an emotional boost than the recipient.
A longer life, improved functionality and better mental health are just some of the many benefits associated with volunteering. Donating your time to those in need offers opportunities to widen your social network. Strong social connections not only enrich your life with meaningful relationships but actually improve your health by providing you with support in times of emotional or physical stress as well. Volunteering also helps Boomers avoid the physical and mental health consequences associated with feelings of isolation.
How Much Time Should You Donate?
To reap all of the health benefits associated with donating time to others, the CNCS recommends participating in volunteer activities for one or two hours each week. Several studies that the CNCS examined showed that people who only occasionally volunteer do not experience the same positive results as those who contribute a considerable amount of their time.
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that volunteering gives people over the age of 65 a sense of purpose, self-empowerment and accomplishment, particularly among those who have experienced the loss of a loved one or of a long-held job. Donating time allows you to feel that you are playing a significant role in society. You'll also enjoy the sense of fulfillment that comes with knowing that you are presenting an example that the next generation can follow. When you role model altruistic behavior, you leave a legacy that others can emulate and build upon for many years to come.
Do you volunteer your time? How do you volunteer and do you experience these same benefts? Comment below.