How Volunteering Benefits Your Mental Health and Self-Esteem

Right about now, many of those New Year’s resolutions you penned in January with such vigor and enthusiasm seem to lose steam, dwindle, and (perhaps) peter out altogether. Our quest for greater satisfaction in our lives, quickly replaced by the daily chase to tick off chores from our never-ending lists.

Is it any wonder our nation’s mental health crisis is growing? What can a person do to combat a growing sense of defeat and hopelessness as the clock speeds round? New research seems to point to a possible solution: Volunteer. That’s right. Volunteering in service of others elevates mental health and raises self-esteem like no New Year’s resolution sought, tried, or (dare we say it?) failed.

A recent national survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group of 4,582 adults found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience. Findings also reported include:
• 76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier.
• 94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood.
• 78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels.
• 96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life.
• 80 percent of them feel like they have control over their health.
• About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems.

Other research groups have looked at health and the impact of volunteering, too…

As with any activity thought to improve health, researchers are trying to identify the specific characteristics of volunteering that provide the greatest benefit. For example, how much time would you need to put into volunteer work to lower your blood pressure or live longer?

One study found that people who volunteer over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the United States. Volunteering can also minimize chronic pain symptoms and reduce the risk of heart disease.

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once surmised that the essence of life is “To serve others and do good.” If recent research is any indication, serving others might also be the essence of good health, physically and mentally. And what greater satisfaction in life could there be than that?

To all of you who volunteer for Duet, thank you. You are not only helping a homebound neighbor, you are helping improve your own health.

For those interested in volunteering for Duet, we have many ways to serve. From rides to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and paperwork assistance, to minor handyperson services, technology assistance, friendly visiting and phoning, we have a need you can fill. To signup for a new volunteer orientation, click the button below.