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Community service can give you the pride and satisfaction of helping others. It can help strengthen your community and your family. Most people understand the importance of giving back to the community and taking an active role in improving conditions in the world we live in. We know that volunteering is a good thing, but did you also know that it can be good for your health?
The Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) reports that a growing body of research over the past two decades indicates that volunteering produces health benefits as well as social benefits for the individuals involved. According to CNCS, findings presented in its report entitled The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research indicate that volunteers have higher functionality, less depression, and lower mortality rates later in life than those who have not volunteered.
Mental Health Benefits of Community Involvement
As discussed in the CNCS report, the evidence suggests that community service can have a positive effect on social psychological factors. It can provide meaning and purpose in life. Focusing on something other than oneself can alleviate stress. Volunteer work strengthens social ties and protects people from isolation. Helping others also produces a greater sense of self-worth and trust, according to the report. As stated in a Harvard Medical School publication, volunteering helps people feel more socially connected and wards off loneliness and depression.
Physical Health Benefits of Volunteering
The Harvard Medical School article also states that growing evidence indicates a correlation between volunteering and better physical health. According to the article, a recently published Carnegie Mellon University study found that adults over 50 who regularly volunteer their time to help others are less likely to develop high blood pressure, a major contributing factor to stroke, heart disease, and premature death.
CNCS researchers found that people who engage in volunteer activities are less likely to have health problems later in life. Even after factoring in age, gender, and health, the CNCS study determined that individuals who volunteer have a greater chance of living longer.
Rush University Medical Center reports that, according to recent research, people who had chronic pain experienced less pain and disability after beginning volunteer work with others suffering chronic pain. Researchers also found that people who volunteered after suffering heart attacks experienced less depression and despair, factors that increase the likelihood of death in heart attack patients.
However, as reported by Rush, there are limits to how much health benefit is available to an individual through volunteering. Researchers have identified a threshold of one or two hours a week, beyond which no health benefits have been established.