THIS JUST IN: Volunteers live longer.
I swear it’s true. They’re also happier. As manager of volunteers here at the Nature Museum, I’ve been saying this for years – but now there’s empirical evidence to back me up.
Dr. Suzanne Richards and her team at the University of Exeter Medical School recently published results of a systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of people who volunteer. The researchers looked at 40 studies on this topic and found that volunteering is consistently associated with increased life satisfaction and wellbeing and decreased rates of depression and mortality. (Source: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/13/773#)
In a nutshell: People who volunteer are happier and healthier than people who don’t.
Anyone who’s ever taken a course in research methodology knows that we can’t infer causation from correlation. Just because two factors are associated with one another doesn’t mean one factor caused the other. So we can’t say for sure whether volunteering actually causes people to live a longer, happier life or whether there are other variables at work.
But the fact remains that people who give their time and energy to help others end up better off themselves.
Why might this be so? I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, volunteering gets you out of the house. It makes you more active and gets all those great energy juices flowing. Second, volunteering creates social connections. It expands and deepens your circle of friends, which sets off numerous chemical reactions in your brain that make you feel happy.
If all this happiness and longevity sounds appealing to you and you’re into nature and science, join our volunteer team here at the museum. Apply here to get started: http://naturemuseum.org/get-involved/volunteer.
Not sure if this is the place for you? Stop by in February for the chance to speak with over 50 different nonprofit organizations about their volunteer opportunities. The Nature Museum is hosting the second annual Chicago Volunteer Expo on Sunday, February 16, 10 am to 4 pm. I hope to see you there!
Manager of Volunteers and Interns
PS: If you’re a nonprofit organization looking to recruit volunteers at the 2014 Chicago Volunteer Expo, the application is now live!