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Can Volunteering Improve your Health?

Anecdotal evidence has pointed to having sense of purpose and an improved sense of self worth as two possible explanations for how volunteering can improve health. Previous studies have acknowledged that volunteering is associated with better mental health, physical health, and health behaviors.

In January of 2016, the journal of Social Science & Medicine published a study titled: Volunteering is prospectively associated with health care use among older adults. The purpose of the study was to evaluate whether volunteering increased health care use.

Results of the study indicated that:

  • Volunteers were more likely to seek preventative health care services such as: Flu shots, Cholesterol tests, mammograms and pap smears or prostate exams.
  • Volunteers spent fewer nights in the hospital

How do you get started with volunteering?

  • Choose something you feel passionate about (animals, children, cooking, etc.)
  • Ask family and/or friends if they are interesting in volunteering. Volunteering can be a great way to stay connected with loved ones.
  • Start small. Taking on too much at once can make volunteering feel like work.

Ideas for volunteering and giving back to your community:

  • Volunteer to help cook or serve a meal at your local soup kitchen
  • Help put together care packages for service members
  • Deliver meals or groceries to seniors in your neighborhood
  • Do you have a favorite subject from school? Math? Science? Spanish? Volunteer to tutor youth at your local school
  • Volunteer as an usher at your local theater (One of the exciting benefits is that you will likely be allowed to stay for the performance!)
  • Do you enjoy being active? Sign up to race (i.e. 5k run or walk) for a charity, or volunteer. Hold a fundraising event (such as a bake sale using some of the lighter recipes from to help raise money for the event
  • Do you have a special skill, such as playing an instrument? Donate your time and teach a child or entertain at a senior center
  • Are you fluent in a second language? Offer to tutor at your local school
  • Adopt a garden at your local park or community center
  • Do you have a neighbor that needs a little extra help? Offer to mow their lawn, rake their leaves, or shovel the snow from their driveway (depending on the season!)
  • Do you love animals? Lend a helping hand at your local zoo, Humane Society, farm, or animal hospital
  • Set up a blood drive with the American Red Cross
  • Help a community clean up by volunteering to paint homes or assist with building a new home

Websites to check out if you need additional volunteer ideas:

Many of the volunteer ideas listed above require a fair amount of physical activity. Before participating in such activities, make sure you have received clearance from your health care provider. He or she may want you to monitor your blood glucose levels more carefully while volunteering.

Do you have a volunteer opportunity or experience you would like to share with the community? We would love to hear about it!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Kim E, Konrath S. (January 2016). Volunteering is prospectively associated with health care use among older adults. Retrieved from