Volunteering increases health and happiness, decreases stress

“Volunteering builds health by engaging people in activities that strengthen communities and personal health at the same time.” – Dr. Carol SimonA new mixed mode survey released by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute finds that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental and emotional health. The study illustrates that employers benefit from employees who volunteer in terms of better employee health and in professional-skills development that employees use in the workplace.

Harris Interactive surveyed 3,351 adults, on behalf of United Health Group and the Optum Institute. The online and telephone survey was fielded from February 9 to March 18, 2013. The survey results were weighted to be representative of the total U.S. adult population. Respondents were general-population members of an online consumer research panel or recruited through random-digit-dial methods and interviewed by mobile or landline telephones. Based on a Researchscape assessment of the questionnaire and methodology, this survey is somewhat likely to be representative of U.S. consumers in general.

The study reveals 4 key benefits of volunteering that make a positive impact on people’s health:
  • Health: volunteers say that they feel better physically, mentally and emotionally
  • Stress: volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress levels
  • Purpose: volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and to others
  • Engagement: volunteers are more informed health care consumers, and more engaged and involved in managing their health

Volunteering makes people feel physically healthier: 76% of respondents said that they have felt physically healthier as a result of volunteering.

Volunteering has made me feel physically healthier.
 Source: Harris Interactive, n = 3, 

Volunteering also improves people’s mental health: 94% of respondents reported that volunteering has improved their mood.

Volunteering improves my mood.
 Source: Harris Interactive, n = 3, 

The study also shows that volunteering is good for employers:
  • employers can expect lower health care costs and higher productivity from employees who volunteer
  • volunteering can develop employees’ work skills, which benefits employer and employee
  • volunteers report that volunteering helps them build teamwork and time-management skills; fosters stronger relationships with colleagues; and supports professional networking
  • volunteer activities lead to stronger positive feelings toward an employer when volunteer programs are supported in the workplace

Volunteers in the study report lower stress levels: 78% of respondents report that volunteering lowers their levels of stress. Other established research shows that reducing employee stress contributes to higher productivity and levels of engagement. A separate survey on family vacation stress by HomeAway found that stress prevents 46% of travelers from enjoying family vacations.

Volunteering lowers my stress levels.
 Source: Harris Interactive, n = 3, 

For more information on this survey, refer to Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study.

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