Over the course of history, charity has always been encouraged, the notions of altruism extolled across the world. Yet, in regards to hard data, tangible evidence that could prove why altruism is good for you, it was lacking. We know giving back to community feels good. We understand that making a difference on a personal level is the first step to changing the world as a whole. But is there more to it?
Turns out, yes. Yes, there is something more to it. In fact, some recent evidence has just emerged which suggests that individuals who volunteer actually, believe it or not, spend 38% less time in the hospital; and that’s not it. The sample size was a population of 7,000 Americans over the age of 50, and those who volunteered not only spent less time in the hospital but they also participated in more preventative health screenings. Yet another study, conducted back in 2013, actually claims that those who volunteer have a 24%-47% smaller mortality rate than those who don’t.
Although it should be noted that both studies pertain to people over fifty, that does not by any means volunteering benefits are restricted to the middle-aged and above. In fact, there is plenty of research that actually implies volunteering benefits people of all ages, evidenced by things like lower weight, reduced cholesterol and more stamina, flexibility, and less stressed. Just check out this article from The Atlantic.
When looking at the numbers, it’s difficult to say if people who look after themselves are inclined to volunteer or if people who volunteer are inclined to look after themselves. Yet, one thing is for sure: there’s certainly a trend. Put simply, correlation does not imply causation, but it does exist nonetheless. What is interesting is that despite clear and established data showing how charity behooves volunteers, doctors still seem hesitant to prescribe volunteering as a way to recover.
Volunteering is even endorsed as a possible road to recovery on the NHS website, and it’s more or less common sense at this point that volunteers are more engaged in the community and healthier as a whole. So why do doctors tend to neglect prescribing altruism? Well, according to Kartik Modha, the GP of NHS and the founder of myhealthspecialist.com, “there is a barrier in the fact as a profession we’re so busy and don’t often have easy access to what opportunities are out there patients.”
So perhaps the reason is because there are not many specific philanthropic groups that are made for the express purpose of improving volunteers’ health through generosity, which, when you think about it, is pretty ironic. There shouldn’t be a philanthropic group put together to help those who are actually doing the volunteering, considering the whole purpose of charity is to be selfless, not selfish. Yet, this lack of marketing could potentially be hindering volunteer involvement.
This all said, I am merely speculating, and there does seem to be evidenced trends that volunteer involvement is increasing, even in spite of last year’s unfortunate scandals. Regardless, the future looks bright for charity and I can only hope it continues to do so.