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Do Good. Feel Better.

This is a guest post by Margot Seay. Margot is AARP’s first National Volunteer Director. 

All across the country, committed volunteers are hard at work, making a real and positive difference in their communities and reaping significant rewards along the way.

When we ask “what’s in it for you?,” we get lots of answers — the sense of pride and accomplishment in helping others, a deeper connection to the community, the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships, the satisfaction of learning valuable new skills.

Volunteers sort produce at a food bank.

But there is another critical benefit of which you may not be aware.  Volunteering can actually make you healthier!

The 2010 survey, “Rx for Nonprofits: Your Volunteers and the Health Benefits of Service,” commissioned by UnitedHealth care/Volunteer Match, found a correlation between volunteering and physical health.  Two-thirds of the volunteers surveyed (68%) said volunteering made them feel physically healthier, 29% said it helped them manage chronic health conditions, and 73% said it lowered their stress levels.

Other studies have come to similar conclusions.  In “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” published by the Corporation for National and Community Service,  researchers found that people who  volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than people who do not volunteer.  Among all age groups, older volunteers gain the greatest health benefits from their service.

Can you get too much of a good thing?  In this case, at least, the answer is no.  The volunteers who give the most time-100 hours per year or more-fare the best in terms of health outcomes.

So…  keep doing what you’re doing!  Here’s to your good work — and to your health.

To find opportunities to volunteer in your area, head over to Create the Good.

Photo courtesy of: AARP

More on Margot: In this volunteer role,  Margot provides strategic advice and leadership for AARP’s volunteer and service engagement and support strategies.  A native of Washington DC, Margot lives in Kingsport, TN with her husband.  They have two children and four grandchildren.