London : Volunteering can improve mental health and help you live longer, new research has claimed, according to PTI. The research by University of Exeter, pooled and compared data from multiple experimental trials and longitudinal cohort studies, and concluded that volunteering may be good for health.
Some observational evidence pointed to around a 20 per cent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers in cohort studies. Volunteers also reported lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being, although the findings have yet to be confirmed in trials, researchers said.
Dr Suzanne Richards at the University of Exeter Medical School and colleagues analysed 40 papers which reported data from 9 experimental trials and 16 cohort studies to arrive at their conclusions.
The causal mechanisms underlying the potential health benefits of volunteering are unclear. Some people hypothesise that physical benefits, for example, could be explained by the fact that volunteers spend more time out of the house. But the relationship with mental health may be trickier.
Although people tend to volunteer for altruistic reasons, if they do not feel they are ‘getting something back’, then the positive impact of volunteering on quality of life is limited. “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause,” Richards said.
“It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place.
“The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them,” Richards said. The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health.