You’ve heard the saying, “give ‘til it hurts.” Well it turns out that giving your time not only doesn’t hurt, it’s actually good for you.
Volunteering Is Good for Your Physical and Mental Health
Experts say that volunteering is good for people of all ages, though most research has focused on older adults.
Emotional benefits include higher self-esteem and a greater sense of well-being. And it can also lead to less stress and depression, lower risk of dementia, and the other benefits that come with more socialization.
Studies show that additional physical benefits for people who volunteer may include lower blood pressure and increased longevity.
In fact, research from Carnegie Mellon University suggests that older adults who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year may decrease their risk of high blood pressure by 40 percent.
Why is there a connection between volunteering and blood pressure? For one thing, doing volunteer work may increase physical activity for those who aren’t normally active.
Helping others may also promote the release of hormones that protect against stress. And less stress can mean lower risk of cardiovascular disease and better control of high blood pressure.
Volunteering may also help you live longer. Research has found that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who don’t.
Several factors may explain these findings. For example, experts say that meaningful relationships, being productive and keeping active are vital to healthy aging. Volunteering can help achieve all of these.
But the reason you volunteer is also important. According to a study from the University of Michigan, adult volunteers had a lower risk of dying over a four-year period than non-volunteers. But researchers only found this to be true for those whose primary focus was on helping others rather than the benefits to themselves, like trying to round out a resume.
Lend a Helping Hand
So how can you help? Start by finding a volunteer opportunity that you’ll enjoy.
Whatever your skills, chances are, there’s an organization that can put them to good use. The time commitment required ranges from regular commitments to only occasional help.
And remember: You may get as much out of volunteering as the people you help.
Meet the BCBSMT Volunteer of the Year.
Each year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) recognizes employee volunteers for meaningful contributions to their communities.
Montana’s Blue Corps Volunteer of the Year is Eddy White, a senior database specialist. Eddy has been with BCBSMT for 26 years and has taken every opportunity to get involved in helping others.
When Eddy retired from the Army National Guard after more than 21 years of service, he missed the camaraderie and opportunities to serve he had when he was in uniform.
So he has focused on helping people, especially veterans and their families. Eddy helped start the BCBSMT chapter of the company’s Supporters of Military Veterans group and serves as its president.
He has served in leadership positions for the American Legion, where he has helped plan and coordinate community events like the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Anniversary, refurbishing and maintaining the County Veterans Memorial, and providing honors at veterans’ funerals.
Eddy has also been an active volunteer for the BCBSMT Governor’s Cup for 25 years and has participated in many Relay for Life Events as a way to honor loved ones he has lost to cancer and help those who are still fighting.
Recently, he joined the board of directors of the American Legion Institute of Family Living — Broadwater Village to help lower income members in Helena with housing needs.
Sources: “Volunteering May Be Good for Body and Mind,” Harvard Health, June 26, 2013; “Volunteering Reduces Risk of Hypertension In Older Adults, Carnegie Mellon Research Shows,” Carnegie Mellon University News, June 13, 2013; “Be Generous: It’s a Simple Way to Stay Healthier,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 6, 2015