"Only a life lived for others is worth living."
- Albert Einstein
You don't have to be a genius to realize the value of giving to others; in fact last year over 77 million Americans provided more than $167 billion worth of volunteer services. Not only does volunteering provide direct benefits to the individuals and communities who receive those services, those who volunteer also receive several health benefits. According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, volunteers enjoy several health benefits from their service including lower rates of depression, reduced stress levels and increased life spans.
Scientific research now validates the familiar saying that: it is more blessed to give than to receive." The results of a large survey conducted in 2005 showed no association between receiving social support and improved health; however those who gave social support to others had lower mortality rates than those who did not. Another study completed in 1999 found that elderly persons who volunteered with two or more organizations had a 44% lower mortality rate over a five year period than those who did not volunteer. In fact, volunteering had a more beneficial effect on improving longevity than high religious involvement or perceived social support.
Last year over 22 million Baby Boomers provided an estimated $54.3 billion dollars worth of volunteer services- way to go Boomers! Although we hear a lot of talk these days about the younger generation being self-indulgent; I find it encouraging that although millennials do not provide as many hours of service per week as do elderly volunteers they tend to be more likely to participate when it comes to volunteering. According to a recent study, about 70% of millennials participated in volunteering and more than 1/3 of that group spent 11 hours or more volunteering. Even more impressive, 54% participated in a company-wide volunteer day, 32% used paid time off to volunteer and 16% took unpaid time off to volunteer.
While any amount of volunteering is a good thing for the community; various studies have found that if you want to receive the health benefits associated with volunteering it requires a commitment of 100 hours per year, or about two hours per week. If you are looking for an opportunity to do something to help others while at the same time benefiting yourself, why not consider becoming a volunteer? There are many organizations in our community that would greatly appreciate your service. Hospice of the Valleys was founded by volunteers over 35 years ago and our volunteers remain the very "heart" of our organization to this day. Remember, you don't need to be a "genius" to be a volunteer; but you have to have a very big heart!