Volunteering Can Help Reduce Loneliness

It’s easy to underestimate the power of volunteering—not all people find value in it and not all communities have many opportunities for it. However, continued research into the benefits of volunteering has shown that it can provide tremendous relief to the causes it serves, as well as the people who are serving.

For people who have lost a spouse, recent research suggests that volunteering just a few days a week can help mitigate immense loneliness from that loss—a win for both physical and emotional health.

It is estimated that the risks of prolonged loneliness, especially from losing a spouse, can be vast. Not only is depression a risk, but physical health can suffer and early mortality can result. Researchers from Georgia State University published a study in the Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences that revealed just how helpful the act of being there for others can help stave off these risks.

Nearly 6,000 participants over the age of 51 were followed and data was gathered on their history of spousal loss and rates of consequent loneliness. What they found was that the widows who were volunteering about 2 hours per week saw a reduction in loneliness levels so that they mirrored that of married couples who volunteered at the same intensity.

“Becoming a widow is one of the most difficult transitions that people face later in life,” co-author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State University Dr. Ben Lennox Kail told Science Daily. “We found that for people in general, widowhood was associated with increased loneliness over time. Among people who became widowed, if they started volunteering 100 hours per year, which is about two hours per week, this reduced loneliness to an extent that they almost look exactly like those people who never became widowed at all.”

The promising effects are suspected to arise from a reduction in a person’s ability to socially integrate at the levels they once could. Dr. Kail explains, “So if you have this robust social network, and you then experience some loss, what you need to do is begin something new. It’s the new social integration that can make up for loss.”

If volunteering could serve such a rewarding purpose for people going through extreme times of grief and loss, it is safe to say the benefits could also exist for those going through other types of loneliness periods, as well. And rewards abound for those who aren’t feeling lonely, but rather want to support an important cause or be useful to their surrounding community. If you are interested in starting out, follow these tips to becoming the best volunteer you can be.

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61 comments

Carole R
Carole R13 hours ago

Very true. Helping others takes your mind off yourself.

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Janis K
Janis Kyesterday

Thanks for sharing.

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Janis K
Janis K4 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Roberto M
Roberto MARINI4 days ago

I agree and thanks for sharing this post.

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Fiona O
Fiona O6 days ago

True and thank you for sharing. When you can see people, you can trust them more than some people you encounter on social media, even Care 2.

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Leo C6 days ago

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Justin M
Justin M10 days ago

Thanks

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Leo C
Leo C12 days ago

thank you for sharing!

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Lisa M
Lisa M12 days ago

Agree.

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