National Volunteer Month
April is National Volunteer Month, but volunteer work any time of year is important for the health of both you and your community! Nearly one in three American adults (77 million!) volunteer each year, contributing a collective 6.9 billion hours of service at an estimated value of $167 billion. But did you know that helping others could help you too?
Helping your community is what matters most, but when performed altruistically, volunteering has mental and physical health benefits for volunteers themselves. Research has shown positive associations between volunteering and improved health in older age demonstrated by longer lifespan, higher cognitive function, and lower rates of depression. It’s hypothesized that knowing your actions make a lasting impact on those you serve helps you feel better about yourself, thus reducing stress. Volunteering can also offer a new sense of purpose and may assist you in adopting positive changes in your own life.
A study published in Psychology and Aging reported that healthy adults 50 years or older who volunteered at least 200 hours in the prior year were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers. Volunteers also had greater increases in psychological well-being scores and physical activity after four years than non-volunteers.
Stress less by finding a volunteer opportunity that brings you joy! If you feel that you don’t have time to incorporate regular volunteer hours into your schedule, even intermittent service work has a positive effect on the health of yourself and your community. Try a new volunteer opportunity this April using the ideas below, organized by profession:
- Social & Legal Services. Offer administrative assistance to social service offices, community projects, and community and senior centers. Work with toy, clothing, and home and office supply drives. Offer free legal services, provide free job training, or help build public housing. Volunteer at your local public housing authority.
- Civic & Environmental Advocacy. Lead or participate in a river, roadside, or trail cleanup. Table for wildlife and environmental protection awareness groups. Provide administrative assistance for environmental organizations.
- Arts & Culture. Volunteer at museums, performing arts centers, botanical gardens, and public radio stations. Usher at local symphonies, plays, and musicals. Offer administrative and clerical support to art-and-culture-related organizations. Educate children, the elderly, and the disabled.
- Education. Tutor children and adults who cannot afford paid services. Teach free GED, SAT, and ACT classes. Work in after-school and summer children’s programming. Conduct or assist in educational research.
- Health Services. Offer clerical services. Participate in community-based healthcare projects. Share your knowledge and experience with students, community members, and other healthcare professionals. Make home visits to enrich and entertain immobile or homebound patients and clients. Connect community members with medication, living assistance, and educational resources. Make and distribute care packages. Help pack, distribute, and serve food at a local food pantry.
- International Relations & Development. Offer administrative assistance. Prepare and distribute disaster relief care packages. Organize, promote, or participate in awareness events.