There are many habits and lifestyle changes that you can adopt to help you live longer. You can eat healthier foods, meditate, exercise and get more sleep. You can take vitamins and supplements and make sure you go to the doctor for your annual check-up. You probably don’t find any of these ideas surprising. What you might be astonished to learn is that volunteering can help you live longer.
Why Volunteering Helps with Longevity
Ask any volunteer why they do it and they’ll tell you it’s because volunteering and helping others makes them feel good. They experience a sense of community and well-being when they are working to help others. Scientists have studied the health of volunteers and have found that evidence supports the general consensus amongst volunteers: they really do experience reduced stress levels and are more satisfied with their life.
They also found that both mortality and morbidity were reduced in volunteers and caregivers helping others. A meta-analysis of 14 studies found that volunteering appeared to reduce mortality risk by almost 50% before other variables were considered. These variables include factors like age and gender. When the analysis was adjusted for risk factors, the benefits of volunteering still showed a 25% lower risk of death.
There is no concrete evidence to show why volunteering helps increase longevity. However, experts theorize that hormones like oxytocin are released when we’re caring for others, and cortisol levels are decreased. In short, your body is better able to manage the effects of stress and reduce the harmful impact it can have.
We also know that optimists live longer, and generally speaking people that volunteer tend to have a more positive outlook on life. So how do you embrace this life-affirming and life-giving benefit?
How to Volunteer
It’s important to know that volunteering so that you’ll live longer won’t really work. If you’re not enjoying the volunteering and you’re not receiving some social or emotional benefit from it, then the benefits are reduced. So the key to making this tactic work for you is to find a cause that you feel passionate about and to focus your volunteering energies in that direction.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re helping rebuild a home or changing bedpans. You can pack boxes or give hugs, – any volunteering activity produces health benefits. There is a point of diminishing returns to be aware of, though. You can volunteer too much. There’s no quantitative rule of thumb, but if you start to feel like volunteering is a burden then scale back your volunteering time.
If you’re seeking a way to give back to the world and you’re passionate about a cause, volunteering is a fantastic way to help and to lengthen your life. It’s a win/win. You make the world a better place and you get to stick around a little longer to enjoy it.