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Volunteering Is Good for Your Health

Did you know that volunteering not only helps others, but is good for you too? Studies consistently show that volunteering makes people feel good and leads to better physical and mental well-being.

Millions of Americans volunteer every year, and the opportunities are endless. Animals shelters, schools, hospitals, food banks, clubs, community gardens, museums, and a variety of other organizations – including Community Memorial – all rely on volunteers to support their operations.

According to a survey on volunteering and civic life in America, released in early 2023 by AmeriCorps and the U.S. Census Bureau, “An estimated 23% of Americans – or 60.7 million people – formally volunteered with organizations between September 2020 and 2021. In total, these volunteers served an estimated 4.1 billion hours with an economic value of $122.9 billion.”

Volunteers from the Community Memorial Auxiliary recently celebrated thousands of hours of service to Community Memorial Hospital – Ventura at their annual awards luncheon.

A wide body of research from charitable organizations, healthcare and mental health researchers, insurance companies, and others has documented the mental, social and physical health benefits of volunteering. Jeffrey Burr, a professor of gerontology at UMass Boston, has led or co-wrote several studies on the link between volunteering and better health. “We’re convinced that volunteering does have positive ramifications for wellbeing,” Burr wrote in an article published in April 2023 by the American Heart Association. “Compared to non-volunteers, volunteers have less depression, less anxiety, higher self-esteem, higher life satisfaction, greater happiness, and a greater sense of meaning in life.” The article discusses numerous studies that have linked volunteering to health benefits among high school students, middle-aged people, and people over age 50.

Volunteering connects people to their communities as well as to each other.

Volunteers working on a community project or effort are united with a shared goal regardless of age, race, religion, or any other demographic factor. Volunteers help build stronger communities when they give their time to a neighborhood healthcare clinic or a community garden, or by delivering meals to local homebound seniors, for example.

Volunteering improves physical health.

Research shows that people who give back to their communities experience better overall health, greater life satisfaction, fewer hospitalizations, higher self-esteem, and a greater ability to manage their own chronic illnesses, according to Carnegie Mellon University. Carnegie Mellon led a study which found that older adults who volunteered for at least 200 hours annually decrease their risk of high blood pressure by 40 percent, thus lowering their risk of heart disease and stroke, among other health problems. The actual act of volunteering – whether you’re helping to build a home for Habitat for Humanity or cleaning up at the local animal shelter – encourages physical activity, walking, and movement.

The mental health benefits of volunteering are substantial.

Volunteering helps people live in the moment and serves as a positive distraction from everyday problems, stress, grief, or worry. It’s well known that chronic stress can cause health problems, and volunteering relieves stress while enhancing one’s sense of purpose. This is especially important for aging populations. Carnegie Mellon researcher Rodlescia S. Sneed writes, “As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement, and the departure of children from the home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction,” says Carnegie Mellon researcher Rodlescia S. Sneed. “Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy aging and reduces risk for a number of negative health outcomes,” she adds. Research also has found that volunteering can alleviate loneliness, reduce depression, and increase positive thinking.

Volunteering makes you happier!

A 2020 study published by the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t volunteer, according to Anthem Blue Cross. Those who volunteer regularly were found to be happier, more empathetic toward others, and feel a sense of identity and pride.

Volunteer at Community Memorial

Community Memorial Healthcare volunteers play a crucial role in the care we provide to our community, and we offer a variety of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. From holding babies in the NICU and transporting patients around the hospital, to delivering flowers and welcoming patients and visitors in our hospital lobby, there’s a volunteer position for every interest and skill level. If you are interested in volunteering at Community Memorial, download our volunteer application or click here for more information!