We all know that volunteer activities can be good for the soul. Now we know that good works can also improve your mental health. A new study shows that giving back to the community also can give middle-age and older adults measurable health benefits.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Birmingham in the U.K., found that people in groups who spent time volunteering had higher mental health scores than those who didn’t. The researchers surmised that volunteering can widen social networks and provide a sense of purpose, especially for folks in retirement.
Interestingly, the benefits are less apparent in younger people — perhaps because they aren’t as likely to lack social activity and purpose.
Ways to Volunteer
Find groups in your town that do charitable work and offer your time. Common volunteer opportunities include reading to children or tutoring, helping at a soup kitchen, or even gardening.
Another way to improve your mental health as well as physical health is having a pet. Don’t feel like tending to a pet full time? No problem. Volunteer when it fits your schedule at animal rescues. They always need help feeding, and walking dogs or snuggling and playing with cats.