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Volunteering Later in Life Can Enhance Mental Health

Volunteering Later in Life Can Enhance Mental Health

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Tuesday, 09 August 2016 11:40 AM


Volunteering later in life can improve your mental health and emotional well-being, according to a study from England's University of Southampton and University of Birmingham. The effects, however, only apply to older adults and have no effect before the age of 40.


Researchers from the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute and Birmingham's Third Sector Research Centre reviewed over 66,000 responses by British adults to questions posed through the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS).


The survey, which ran between 1991 and 2008, asked a range of questions on leisure time activities including the extent of formal volunteering. The survey also included the General Health Questionaire-12 or GHQ-12, which measures mental health.


About 21 percent of respondents said they had carried out some kind of formal volunteering activity with women tending to volunteer more than men. Those who volunteered the most had the best scores for mental health and well-being with benefits becoming evident around the age of 40 and continuing up into old age, measured as 80 and older.


Volunteering may provide participants with "greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status," said Dr Faiza Tabassum of the University of Southampton. "Particularly, with the aging of the population, it is imperative to develop effective health promotion for this last third of life, so that those living longer are healthier.


"Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, particularly for those people who have lost their earnings, because regular volunteering helps contribute to the maintenance of social networks, and this is especially the case for older people who often live in isolation," said Tabassum.


The researchers were not able to gauge the extent of "informal" volunteering, such as helping out neighbors, so it couldn't adequately measure the full spectrum of voluntary activities.


The study was published in the BMJ Open online.
 

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Volunteering later in life can improve your mental health and emotional well-being, according to a study from England's University of Southampton and University of Birmingham. The effects, however, only apply to older...
volunteering, later, life, mental, health
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2016-40-09
Tuesday, 09 August 2016 11:40 AM
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