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Good deeds improve health and well-being

Good deeds improve health and well-being


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Volunteering protects health

Voluntary work and volunteering seem to be associated with health and wellbeing benefits. The positive effects include a lower risk of physical limitations and a reduced risk of dying early.

In a recent investigation led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston and Harvard University have found that volunteering or volunteering improves well-being and health, and protects against premature death and physical limitations. The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

There have already been some studies that have looked at the benefits of volunteering for health and well-being. Voluntary work means voluntary help with work for the common good. There are numerous programs in Germany that promote voluntary work. These include, for example, the Voluntary Social Year, the Voluntary Ecological Year and the Federal Voluntary Service.

Data from almost 13,000 participants were evaluated

The current analysis was based on data, personal surveys and survey responses from almost 13,000 participants, which were selected at random from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The participants were monitored medically over a period of four years in two cohorts from 2010 to 2016.

Impact of volunteering was assessed

A growing number of research projects have linked volunteering to many health and wellbeing benefits in the past. However, there is still not enough clear evidence of its positive effects. The current large-scale study is helping to fill this gap by assessing 34 physical health and mental / social wellbeing effects.

What impact did voluntary work have?

Humans are social creatures by nature. It is possible that people's minds and bodies will be rewarded if they voluntarily help other people, the researchers say. The results of the new study show that volunteering among older adults strengthens the community, enriches the lives of those affected by bonding with other people, conveys a sense of meaning in life and well-being and additionally protects against feelings of loneliness, depression and hopelessness.

Reduced risk of death from selfless activities

Regular altruistic activities (selfless activities) also reduce the risk of death, although the results of the study did not have a direct impact on a wide range of chronic diseases, the researchers explain.

What do 100 hours of volunteering do each year?

Adults over the age of 50 who volunteer for at least one hundred hours a year (about two hours a week) have a significantly lower risk of physical limitations and reduced early mortality compared to people who do not volunteer. Other benefits of volunteering include increased levels of physical activity and well-being.

No improvements in chronic diseases?

The study found no association between volunteering and improvements in chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer, heart disease, lung disease, arthritis, obesity, cognitive impairment, or chronic pain.

Guidelines to support volunteering

The growing number of older people has a wide range of skills and experience that can be used for the benefit of society through volunteering. The researchers therefore propose the introduction of guidelines that support more volunteering. Such interventions could simultaneously improve society and promote healthy aging in the rapidly growing population of older adults. However, further studies are needed to better understand the identified effects.

Volunteering in times of COVID-19?

In times of COVID-19, social activities are associated with a particular risk and not necessarily advisable in the foreseeable future, the researchers report. However, there could also be a special moment in history when society needs voluntary services the most. If people are able to do such voluntary work in compliance with health guidelines, this could not only help society, but also the people themselves. (as)

Read also: Altruism protects against physical pain.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Swell:

  • Eric S. Kim, Ashley V. Whillans, Matthew T. Lee, Ying Chen, Tyler J. VanderWeele: Volunteering and Subsequent Health and Well-Beingin Older Adults: An Outcome-Wide LongitudinalApproach, in American Journal of Preventive Medicine (published 2020) , American Journal of Preventive Medicine


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