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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Photo credit: Thinkstock

88 comments

Biz M
Biz M9 hours ago

Many thanks.

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Past Member
Past Member 5 days ago

of course.

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Hannah K
Hannah K11 days ago

Thank you

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Shirley Plowman
Shirley Plowman11 days ago

yes, truly beneficial for all

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Kathy G
Kathy G18 days ago

Thank you

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Maria P
Maria P18 days ago

It can indeed

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Shirley P
Shirley Plowman21 days ago

SO VERY TRUE. LIFE CHANGES AS THE YRS GO BY, REACHING OUT TO SAVE AND RESCUE ANIMALS, OUR NATURAL WORLD, ALL WILDLIFE, OUR PRECIOUS PLANET CAN FILL MANY HRS WITH JOY.

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Ann B
Ann B24 days ago

volunteering is WONDERFUL but most of us have to work to pay the bills and the time left is sleep, and paying those bills

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Angela J
Angela J26 days ago

Thanks

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Lesa D
Lesa D29 days ago

thank you Katie...

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