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Blog > Science-proven benefits of volunteering

Science-proven benefits of volunteering

affiché le 14 mar 2018
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by Maria Lahiffe

You know that volunteers are at the heart of the non-profit sector, connecting with community and allowing us to stretch our limited resources to meet more stakeholder needs. Did you know that volunteers themselves can reap great benefits from their work? Consider including some of the following benefits in your next recruitment push.

Volunteering improves physical health

A higher rate of volunteering in a population is correlated with a lower rate of mortality and reduced incidence of heart disease. [1] 76% of people who volunteer report an improvement in their health over the previous 12 months. [2]

Volunteering improves mental health

A number of studies have provided evidence that volunteering, specifically, is beneficial to mental health. Researchers speculate that this is because volunteering provides such a great package of benefits like pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment, along with opportunities such as

  • Strengthen communities
  • Solve problems
  • Improve lives
  • Connect to other people

It appears that some of the benefits come from simply socializing with others. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, close to 45 percent of people in the US and the UK admit to feeling lonely. Volunteering is a good way to get out of the house and interact with others, to reduce loneliness.

In people who have identified mental health disorders, volunteering has been shown to have a calming effect. [3] [4] Volunteering has also been demonstrated to reduce dementia and depression in older persons. [1] This is probably because volunteering is linked to increased brain plasticity – i.e. a brain which is better able to respond to change. [5]

Volunteering is better than mere socializing

The Corporation for National and Community Service and Energize, Inc. have analyzed the results of numerous studies, which show that volunteering offers unique benefits beyond simple socialization. Here are some highlights:

  • Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
  • Participation in community service contributes more to life satisfaction than working for pay
  • Receiving social support does not improve physical health, but giving social support does improve health and increase life expectancy.
  • Among volunteers over 65, the benefits of volunteering are most pronounced for people who volunteer consistently for 2 hours per week or more.

Emphasize the benefits of volunteering when you are recruiting, to help people realize why supporting you is win-win for everyone!

Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to all aspects of running a non-profit or a charity. Click here for our event calendar. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.

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Related blog posts:

[1] "Corporation for National and Community Service," April 2007. [Online]. Available: https://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/07_0506_hbr_brief.pdf. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [2] United Health Group, "Doing good is good for your: 2013 health and volunteering study," 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/~/media/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.ashx. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [3] P. Fitzgerald, "Who rescued whom? Shelter dogs and prison inmates give each other a new "leash" on life," Huffpost, 3 November 2014. [Online]. Available: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-patricia-fitzgerald/who-rescued-who-shelter-dogs-and-prison-inmates-give-each-other-a-new-leash-on-life_b_5760042.html. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [4] "Study examines health effects that shelter dogs migh have on veterans with PTSD," Colorado News, 20 December 2016. [Online]. Available: http://kdvr.com/2016/12/20/study-examines-the-health-effects-that-shelter-dogs-may-have-on-veterans-with-ptsd/. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [5] M. C. Carlson, K. I. Erickson and A. F. Kramer, "Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps program," Journal of Gerontology, vol. 64, no. 12, pp. 1275-1282, 2009. [6] R. Grimm, K. Spring and N. Dietz, "Benefits of Volunteering," Corporation for National and Community Service, April 2007. [Online]. Available: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [7] "Loneliness Research," Campaign to End Loneliness, [Online]. Available: https://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/loneliness-research/. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [8] A. Troyer, "The Health Benefits of Socializing," Psychology Today, 30 June 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-mild-cognitive-impairment/201606/the-health-benefits-socializing. [Accessed 4 December 2017]. [9] J. Fritz, "15 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering that will Inspire You," The Balance, 10 March 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.thebalance.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453. [Accessed 4 December 2017].
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