A few weeks ago I attended the combined AGMs (Annual General Meetings) of the St-Pierre Chambre of Commerce, Frog Follies and St-Pierre en Boom so that I could see what the organizations had been up to for the past year. As I sat there listening to all the people speaking, I began looking around the room and it quickly dawned on me that I was looking at probably all the people who do the lions share of volunteering to make our community a better place for all of us.
I personally knew many, if not most, of the people in that room from having served on the Chambre board for 5 years myself (not to mention many are patients of mine), and they also tend to be some of the most happy, helpful, friendly and health conscious people I know as well. Which got me thinking, is it really a coincidence that people who take care of their community also take care of their health? Which then got me thinking that I should look into it some more and see if there’s been any research that has looked into those relationships!
Turns out that there have been many, the most recent of which was published this year entitled “Volunteering and Health Benefits in General Adults“, which also happens to be open access, meaning anyone can download it and read it for free! The authors found that “participation in voluntary services is significantly predictive of better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, lower depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and mortality and functional inability.” Wow, pretty cool, eh?!
The proposed actual mechanism of how volunteering can have all these amazing effects is that “role-related social privileges, resources, supportive network, coping skills, life meaning and gratitude accumulated through assuming multiple prosocial roles can be directly conducive to various health outcomes”. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it. They also mention that “serving others out of sheer altruism, genuineness and humanitarian concern is important in reaping better health” and that “some personal intrinsic motives, e.g. narcissism and self-preoccupation, may lead to health compromising behaviour and then detriment to health”. So basically, you gotta do it for the right reasons to benefit from it!
In short, volunteering is awesome for everyone. It helps you and it helps the community. However, when there aren’t enough volunteers to go around, it can also lead to burn out, so if you want to help but don’t know where, drop me a line and I can help you!
Contact Dr. Ben any time at email@example.com