Originally published September 11 2014
Volunteering 2-3 hours per week improves your own health and happiness!
by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
(NaturalNews) Giving opens the door to the future, inviting in new feelings of purpose and connectivity. Giving prepares the way for a more compassionate world, especially when the giving and receiving is done with a good heart. A gift can lift the burdens of both the receiver and the giver, empowering both with happiness that leads to better health.
Giving doesn't always have to come in the form of materials or monetary treasures. Giving opportunity or volunteering time can be even more special than giving a dollar amount. After all, time is more valuable than paper money. Money can always be printed and earned, but time can never be recovered. That's why, when one sacrifices time from their life to serve others, they are truly giving of their soul. Since time is so sacred, giving it (volunteering) can have a tremendous rebound effect of happiness and health. By investing time, one can bring a much needed energy boost to the community, creating a contagious energetic effect on those around them.
Volunteering 2-3 hours per week boosts personal health of seniorsAccording to new research from Baycrest Health Sciences, volunteering two to three hours per week can improve not only happiness but also health. The study measured the happiness and health rebound effect in older adults who volunteered for various amounts of time. The study found a sweet spot for giving time that brought both an altruistic feeling and a positive health effect for seniors.
Lead researcher Dr. Nicole Anderson got together with scientists from Canadian and American academic centers to investigate 73 studies conducted over a 45-year time frame. All the studies engaged seniors over age 50 in volunteering activities, studying health outcomes. The studies had measured psychosocial, physical and cognitive outcomes for the participating seniors. The seniors were asked questions about their feeling of happiness, physical health, episodes of depression and overall life satisfaction throughout the studies.
"Our goal was to obtain a more comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge on the benefits of volunteering among older adults," said Dr. Anderson, a senior scientist with Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute and associate professor at the University of Toronto. "We discovered a number of trends in the results that paint a compelling picture of volunteering as an important lifestyle component for maintaining health and wellbeing in later years."
Encouraging seniors to volunteer more often could reduce dementia prevalenceThe group of researchers found that seniors with the most chronic health conditions benefited the most from volunteering. As seniors worked with others in the community, they began to build relationships that boosted their overall psychosocial well being. The researchers wrote that volunteering can reduce depression and also improve physical problems in seniors. While boosting longevity, volunteering was also associated with fewer functional limitations and overall greater quality of life. "Taken together, these results suggest that volunteering is associated with health improvements and increased physical activity -- changes that one would expect to offer protection against a variety of health conditions," said Dr. Anderson.
The researchers also found that excessive volunteering can have a counter effect. The "sweet spot" they found for volunteering was about 100 hours per year of 2-3 hours per week.
They also found mounting evidence that volunteering could reduce dementia in the elderly. Dementia now affects over 30 million seniors annually worldwide and is projected to double by 2030. The research team asks why the field of neuroscience research is not investigating the capacity of volunteering in mitigating dementia risk or delaying its onset.
"We encourage investigators to include more objective measures of cognitive functioning in future studies. Particularly interesting would be the inclusion of a more comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests, so that the association of volunteering with the risks of various forms of dementia and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, could be ascertained," the report concluded.
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