Volunteering to help others may add years to your life
Washington: A new study has shown that people who volunteer because they want to help others rather than themselves live longer than people who don’t volunteer at all.
It also found that those who volunteered for their own personal satisfaction live no longer than non-volunteers, on average.
This was the first time research has shown volunteers’ motives can have a significant impact on life span.
Researchers at the University of Michigan found volunteers lived longer than people who didn’t volunteer if they reported altruistic values or a desire for social connections as the main reasons for wanting to volunteer.
“This could mean that people who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay,” said lead author, Sara Konrath, PhD.
The researchers analyzed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed a random sample of 10,317 Wisconsin high school students in 1957. The sample included 51.6 percent female, with an average age of 69.16 years in 2008.
In 2004, respondents reported whether they had volunteered within the past 10 years and how regularly. They reported their reasons for volunteering.
The researchers also considered the respondents’ physical health, socioeconomic status, marital status, health risk factors, mental health and social support.
The researchers then determined how many of the respondents were still alive in 2008.
Overall, 4.3 percent of 2,384 non-volunteers were deceased four years later, which was similar to the proportion of deceased volunteers who reported more self-oriented motives for volunteering (4 percent).
However, only 1.6 percent of those volunteers whose motivations were more focused on others were dead four years later.
This effect remained significant even when controlling for all the variables.
The study is published online in the APA journal Health Psychology.