Posted on Oct 07, 2011, 6 a.m.
Not only do people who give, live longer – as well, the motivation for volunteering counts.
Previously, studies have shown that volunteering exerts benefits not just to the people receiving help, but also to those who give their time and energy. Sara Konrath, from the University of Michigan (Michigan, USA), and colleagues report that the motivation for volunteering influences the benefits to the giver. The team analyzed data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which followed a random sample of Wisconsin high school students who graduated in 1957. The data used in the analysis included 3,376 men and women who were about 65 years old in 2004. Overall, 57% of those surveyed reported doing at least some volunteer work in the past 10 years. Participants were contacted again four years later, when researchers found that just 2.3% of the volunteers had died, as compared to 4.3% of non-volunteers. Further, the researchers observed that how much people volunteered mattered as well---only 1.8% of regular volunteers were deceased, as compared with 2.5% of occasional volunteers. Death risk was reduced even more for each hour older adults volunteered per month. Importantly, the team found that motives for volunteering have a profound effect on mortality. People who volunteer because they want to help others, live longer than people who don't volunteer at all, whereas those who volunteer mainly for some sort of personal benefit live no longer than non-volunteers, on average.
Konrath, Sara; Fuhrel-Forbis, Andrea; Lou, Alina; Brown, Stephanie. “Motives for volunteering are associated with mortality risk in older adults.” Health Psychology, Aug 15, 2011.