Researchers in Ghent University in Belgium analyzed the statistics of 40,000 EU citizens to see if there was any correlation between volunteering and general wellbeing. Last weekend they published their results which show that people who volunteer are both healthier and wealthier.
After taking other factors like age, gender, schooling and religion into account, they found that people who volunteer on a steady basis are considerably healthier than average. To give it a measurable number they say the average volunteer has the same health as someone five years younger than them who doesn’t volunteer.
If that’s not enough, the researchers found that volunteers benefit from higher incomes than those who don’t volunteer. The researchers explain that “this study matches up with previous studies that showed that volunteer activities that show up in a resume increase a person’s employment opportunities especially for those who aren’t natives of the country they’re in.”
That can explain the increase in income as volunteering is considered additional “business experience” on a resume. But how do the researchers explain the better health?
They have three theories:
“The first is that volunteering improves psychological resources like self-value and social resources like social integration and access to support and information which are proven resources for better health” says Professor Sarah Wilmes one of the research project heads. “Secondly, volunteering increases a person’s physical and cognitive activity which prevents loss of function and dementia in seniors. Thirdly researchers link volunteering with the release of the hormones oxytocin and progesterone which control blood pressure and inflammations in the body”.