What Are the Health Benefits of Volunteering?

Helping others can help improve your physical and mental health

A volunteer and her pet visit a patient at the hospital, brightening her day.

Helping others can help improve your physical and mental health

If you volunteer your time for a good cause — or have considered it — you may not only be helping others. You may be helping yourself. That may not be the main reason you decided to volunteer. But research shows volunteering is good for your mental and physical health.

Older adults appear to benefit the most from volunteering, both physically and mentally. Volunteers who are 60 or older show lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life.

Volunteer work encourages physical activity, which promotes good health. Studies show volunteering helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is a problem that can lead to heart disease.

Volunteering can help reduce stress, keep you mentally stimulated and provide a sense of purpose.

“Volunteering is a great way to feel connected and give back to your community,” says Jill Sandman, Scripps volunteer services manager for northern San Diego. “At Scripps, volunteers play a big role in supporting the health needs of the communities we serve.”

Why volunteer?

Many people turn to volunteering after a major life change. Many older volunteers are retired or have experienced a change in parental responsibilities or even the loss of a spouse. Volunteer work can add something new and meaningful to their lives.

Many volunteers welcome the opportunity to share their talents and skills, learn new skills and meet new people, which tends to be harder as we age.

Volunteer activities need not take over your life to be beneficial, however. Studies show two to three hours a week can provide significant benefits.

Finding the right fit for volunteer work

There are many different types of volunteering work and opportunities out there. It’s important to choose a volunteer opportunity that is a good match for your skills and aligns with your interests and values.

People who volunteer at hospitals and clinics may have backgrounds in health care or want to learn more about the field. Others may just feel good helping patients, doctors and nurses.

“It’s important to that your support the cause and understand the time commitment required,” says Rosa Soto, Scripps volunteer services manager for central and south San Diego. “The more you care about the volunteer work and the causes it supports, the more likely you are to stick with it.”

Volunteering at Scripps

Scripps offers a variety of volunteer opportunities and offers training to help volunteers remain efficient and effective. Many volunteers are students, homemakers, part-time workers, retirees and seniors.

Volunteers provide many services, including helping at gift shops, information desks and special events. They help in the nursing units, patient care areas, rehabilitation services and even in the emergency department at certain locations.

Some are members of the Scripps Pet Therapy Program, where volunteers bring their dogs to visit patients in their hospital rooms or take walks with them around the unit.

“Volunteers can brighten a patient’s day in so many ways, by delivering flowers, cards or books. They can make a difference helping a nurse at the patient bedside and assisting family members and friends of patients and much more,” says Sandman.

If you are interested in volunteer opportunities at Scripps, contact the Scripps Health facility nearest you or visit our volunteer page.

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