Individuals who volunteer do so for a variety of reasons. The intangible benefits alone-pride, satisfaction and accomplishment-are worthwhile reasons to volunteer. Volunteers enjoy the satisfaction of incorporating service into their lives and making a difference in their community. In addition, when volunteers share their time and talents, they:
- Solve problems
- Strengthen communities
- Improve lives
- Connect to others
Over the past two decades, a growing body of research indicates that volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social benefits. This research, from the Corporation for National Community Service in a report titled "The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research," established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
Comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers are the most likely to receive greater benefits from volunteering, either because they are more likely to face higher incidence of illness or because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing. Some of these findings also indicate that volunteers who devote a "considerable" amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are more likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.
"For years, our volunteers have been saying how volunteering makes them feel better," says Jodie Portman, director of Volunteer Services at Hebrew SeniorLife, who oversees nearly 250 volunteers at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston. "I hear it again and again from the volunteers, especially our seniors, that serving keeps their minds sharper, their moods happier and, in some cases, their bodies fit. Wheelchair transporters sometimes log up to six miles a shift. One transport volunteer returned to serving five days a week after his doctor told him volunteering was good for him."
Two hours of volunteer service a week might be just what the doctor ordered.
Experience the "joy of giving" – volunteer at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.
Contact Volunteer Services:
Phone: 617-363-8421 | HSLVolunteerServices@hsl.harvard.edu | Fax: 617-363-8925
Hebrew Rehabilitation Center
Attn: Volunteer Services
1200 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131-1097