health benefits of volunteering
Healthy Living

The Health Benefits of Volunteering

Jun 14 2024

Volunteering is a powerful way to give back to the community, but did you know there are also health benefits of volunteering?

Engaging in volunteer activities not only helps those in need but also offers a wealth of physical, mental and emotional benefits to the volunteers themselves. Not only are there health benefits of volunteering, but volunteers play a crucial role in health care and gain valuable skills through volunteer work.

What are the health benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering offers a variety of benefits to your well-being, which can positively impact various aspects of your life. Here are some ways volunteering can enhance your health:

Mental health improvement

Being generous with your time can reduce stress and make you feel happier. Some ways volunteering helps your mental health include:

  • Reducing stress and anxiety: Engaging in meaningful activities can distract you from your daily worries and help reduce stress. The social connections you form while volunteering can also provide emotional support, further alleviating anxiety.
  • Combatting depression: Regular volunteer work can combat feelings of depression by fostering a sense of purpose and belonging. The act of helping others releases dopamine, often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone.
  • Boosting self-esteem: Contributing to the community and witnessing the positive impact of your actions can significantly boost your self-confidence and self-worth.

Physical health benefits

Studies have shown that volunteers tend to live longer, healthier lives. This is likely due to the combination of increased physical activity, improved mental health and enhanced social connections.

Volunteering allows you to develop a support system among people in your community, especially if you are new to the area, or helps you strengthen existing relationships. Connecting with people with common interests is vital to fighting loneliness and social isolation, as well as finding purpose or feeling life satisfaction, which can physically affect your body.

This can be especially true for older adults, who may interact with others less often. Research has shown that older volunteers often have lower rates of stress, depression and anxiety, which can also lead to fewer cases of heart disease or stroke. It has also shown that older people who volunteered may be less likely to develop high blood pressure – a likely result of lower stress levels and more physical activity.

Cognitive health

Volunteering often involves problem-solving and learning new skills, which can help keep your brain active and improve cognitive function. Giving back to an organization in your community can help you discover a new hobby, expand your skill sets and provide cherished memories.

Additionally, regular interaction with other people helps to keep your mind active and engaged, which is another benefit to cognitive health.

Why are volunteers important in health care?

Volunteers play a pivotal role in the health care sector, providing essential support that can significantly enhance the quality of care for patients. Here are some reasons why volunteers are vital in health care:

Supplementing staff

Volunteers can help ease the workload of health care professionals by assisting with non-medical tasks, allowing staff to focus more on patient care.

Volunteers are often able to spend more time with patients, offering companionship and emotional support, which can be crucial for patient recovery and well-being.

Enhancing patient experience

Many patients benefit from the empathy and compassion that volunteers bring, which can improve their overall health care experience and aid in their recovery process.

Volunteers also help with various tasks such as feeding, reading and providing transportation, which can make a significant difference in a patient’s daily life.

What skills does volunteering give you?

Volunteering is an excellent way to develop and hone a wide range of skills that can be valuable in both personal and professional settings. Here are some key skills you can gain through volunteer work:

Communication skills

  • Interpersonal communication: Regular interaction with diverse groups of people helps improve your ability to communicate effectively and empathetically.
  • Public speaking: Leading volunteer activities or speaking at events can enhance your public speaking and presentation skills.

Leadership and management

  • Teamwork: Collaborating with other volunteers and coordinating efforts teaches you how to work effectively as part of a team.
  • Leadership: Taking charge of projects or leading a team of volunteers can develop your leadership abilities and boost your confidence in managing people and resources.

Problem-solving and adaptability

  • Creative thinking: Volunteering often involves unexpected challenges that require creative problem-solving and adaptability.
  • Resourcefulness: Working with limited resources teaches you to make the most out of what is available and find innovative solutions to problems.

Organizational skills

  • Time management: Balancing volunteer work with other commitments helps improve your ability to manage time effectively.
  • Planning and coordination: Organizing events, managing schedules and coordinating activities can enhance your planning and logistical skills.

What you can do

Volunteering is not just an act of kindness; it’s a pathway to better health, both for yourself and the community. Whether you’re looking to reduce stress, stay physically active or develop valuable skills, volunteering offers a unique and rewarding opportunity.

In health care, volunteers are indispensable, providing crucial support and enhancing patient care. So, if you’re considering volunteering, remember that your efforts can make a significant impact on others’ lives while profoundly enriching your own.

Learn about the volunteer opportunities we offer at Mercy Health. 

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