The Benefits of Volunteering Felt More Keenly After 40
15 August 2016 at 11:46 am
Volunteering when you are middle aged or elderly can boost your mental and emotional well being, according to a new UK study.
However, research from the universities of Southampton and Birmingham found no such association was seen before the age of 40, suggesting the link may be stronger the older you get.
Previous research has highlighted a link between volunteering and improved mental wellbeing, but this is the first time researchers have examined its benefit across different age groups.
The new study, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined data from 5,000 households across the UK based on the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), with questions on volunteering and general health and well being being asked between 1996 and 2008.
Of those surveyed almost one-quarter of those aged 60 to 74 said they volunteered, compared to 17 per cent among the youngest age group.
The authors found that overall, when not taking age into account, those who engaged in volunteering regularly appeared to experience higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who never volunteered.
But when they looked specifically at different age groups they discovered the association between volunteering and wellbeing only became apparent after the age of 40 years.
According to the researchers, the findings held true even after taking account of a range of potentially influential factors, including marital status, educational attainment, social class and state of health.
“The association between volunteering and mental well being varies at different points in the life course,” the authors wrote.
“These findings argue for more efforts to involve middle-aged people to older people in volunteering-related activities.
“Volunteering action might provide those groups with greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status.
“With the ageing of the population, it is imperative to develop effective health promotion for this last third of life, so that those living longer are healthier.”