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Volunteer for good health

Created date

October 22nd, 2014
senior volunteering
senior volunteering

People who volunteer their time to help others often do so because it makes them feel good. After retirement, it can also be a way to stay active, be social, and pass the time. Popular activities include tutoring young students, helping out at places of worship, and serving as a hospital volunteer.

Now scientists have found that volunteering can actually make you healthier. Researchers from the U.S. and Canada analyzed results from 73 studies published since 1969 about the effects of formal volunteering among adults ages 50 and older. They measured outcomes related to emotional health, physical health, life satisfaction, and cognitive functioning.

They found that volunteering is linked to a reduction in depression, better physical health and functioning, and increased longevity. Results also indicated that seniors with chronic health conditions may benefit the most.

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One area in which researchers noticed a lack of objective data was the effect of volunteering on cognitive functioning, or how volunteering may affect the risk of dementia or other health conditions such as diabetes and stroke, which increase the risk of dementia-related illnesses. Very few of the 73 studies investigated this important link. 

The research team hopes that this study will inspire more seniors to volunteer their time and expertise in their communities. They also hope it will stimulate more research about volunteering and its association with the risk of dementia.

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