As of yesterday I have been volunteering for the American Cancer Society (ACS) for one year. It has been a great experience. The people I volunteer for are so appreciative of my work. I’ve had the chance to brush up on my clerical skills. I enjoy getting out of the house, meeting new people and being involved in an organization that’s making a difference in the world.
The kicker is that because I have volunteered more than 40 hours in the past year (other studies say 100 hours), I also am in better health than if I hadn’t volunteered. You read that right, volunteering more than 40 hours a year makes you healthier. At least that’s true according to the Corporation for National and Community Service which reviewed two decades of research on the benefits of volunteering. Here are a few of the results:
· Volunteering enhances a person's social networks to buffer stress and reduce disease risk
· Individuals who volunteer live longer (even when taking into account factors such as physical health, age, socioeconomic status and gender)
· Individuals who volunteer at an earlier point experience greater functional ability and better health outcomes later in life (even when the studies control for other factors, such as socioeconomic status and previous illness)
· Volunteering has a positive effect on social psychological factors, such as a personal sense of purpose and accomplishment
It’s nice to know that I’m probably going to live a longer and healthier life because I did something to help other people. Some might think that being around other people in an office would increase your risk of disease so it’s also good to know there is evidence that it actually reduces the risk.
As for social psychological factors, getting tasks done at ACS definitely makes me feel good and being around purposeful people also enhances my social networks. I’ve gotten to know some really nice people at ACS, people that want to know how I’m really doing.
I’ve mentioned a few times that my mother has been experiencing double vision for six weeks now (going on seven). I had to take a day off from volunteering to help her out so the people at ACS know what’s going on. They have prayed for my mother and asked how she has been doing, something that means a lot to me.
I write a lot about ways to help others, many that are easy and can be done from the comfort of your own home. But getting out there and putting your hands and feet where your mouth is means a lot. Apparently, it is also good for you. Just one more reason to volunteer!