42 Volunteering and Well-Being

Based on Research by Nancy Morrow-Howell, Ph.D. et al. Psychology Science Minute written by Kyle Piecora, M.S.

We humans, as social animals, each depend upon the helpfulness and kindness of others for our survival and emotional well-being. Volunteers put in much time in our communities.  Could we be designed so that the helper as well as the helped benefit from volunteering?

Using data from the Americans’ Changing Lives Study, the longest ongoing longitudinal research project in the U.S., researchers sought to see if well-being later in life is affected by volunteering.  Studying those over 60 years old, they measured at three different times over 8 years many variables including volunteerism health, and their impressions of well-being. The results showed that the more hours volunteered up to 2-3 hours/week, the greater the positive influence on one’s well-being. Volunteering more than 3 hours/week did not make a difference.  People of varying race, gender, or identity with the mainstream culture equally benefited from volunteering.

Not only are you, the volunteer, in the unique position to change other’s lives, but your own as well.  The busiest people seem to volunteer the most, but helping others and ourselves simultaneously sounds like it is worth our time!  Join the community of volunteers!


Morrow-Howell,  N., Hinterlong, J., Rozario, P.A.,  and Tang, F. (2003). Effects of Volunteering on the Well-Being of Older Adults. Journal of Gerontology: SOCIAL SCIENCES, 58B, 3, S137–S145.

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