April is National Volunteer Month and 23-29 April 2017 is Volunteer Appreciation Week. Do you volunteer or know someone who does?
Whether it is offering your time to help in a youth sports league, Scouting, a nursing home, siting on a town board, or helping a myriad of other deserving organizations, volunteering is good for your health. Studies have shown that those who volunteer on a regular basis are happier and lead fuller lives.
One such study is UnitedHealth Group’s Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, they report that 76% of people who volunteered in the previous month say it made them feel better, while 94% say it improved their mood, and 78% reported that it lowered their stress level. In addition to a feeling of better personal health, 95% of the study participants reported that by volunteering they are making their community a better place.
Volunteering isn’t just beneficial to the individual it’s a benefit to employers as well. Employees who volunteer become better employees. In the UnitedHealth Group survey, about half of the respondents reported that volunteering helped them with their career. Of those who said it helped their careers, 87 % noted that volunteering helped develop their people and teamwork skills. This was highest reported career benefit. Others were developing time management skills at75% and developing professional job skills (marketing, finance, etc.) at 71%. For those who volunteered with a colleague, 64% reported that it helped strengthen those working relationships.
Wharton School Professor Cassie Mogilner wrote an article for the September 2012 Harvard Business Review about her studies on spending time helping others. She and her colleagues found that “… giving your time to others can make you feel more “time affluent” and less time-constrained than wasting your time, spending it on yourself, or even getting a windfall of free time.” So, while study participants might feel they have more time, they actually have less time after helping others although they felt more effective, which enhances their productivity.
In 2007, the Corporation for National & Community Service published a research paper titled The Health Benefits of Volunteering. This research focused on older adults from a number of studies exploring volunteering and health. The conclusion is that there is a demonstrative relationship between volunteering and good health. One interesting take away was that the level of volunteerism in a given state could be a predictor of the rate of heart disease and longevity of that given state.
So how will you volunteer?