The Science-Backed Benefits of Volunteering

We’re already well aware of the diverse benefits of volunteering—it’s what our Selfish Altruist podcast is all about.

But if you need more convincing, this brilliant BBC interview with Dr. Xand Van Tulleken is full of fascinating insights into the science-backed benefits of giving up your time to help others.

Volunteering is good for your health

The NHS website lists volunteering as one of the five steps to mental wellbeing—but it’s also been shown to have physical health benefits. When you do something enjoyable your brain releases endorphins, hormones that help reduce stress. The voluntary element of the experience is also important: it gives you a sense of control that you don’t get through paid employment, and that in itself can make it more enjoyable.

And because reducing stress lowers the risk of vascular disease, volunteering can even help us live longer lives, as well as happier ones. “It has very deep effect on people’s health,” says Dr. Van Tulleken.

Countering loneliness with solidarity

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are increasing in the UK and Europe, and volunteering can be a powerful antidote. “The purpose of life is to intertwine yourself with other people,” says Dr. Van Tulleken, “and volunteering is an incredible way of doing that.”

Freed from the obligations of paid labour and monetary exchange, as a volunteer you can feel extremely liberated and part of a community. “You relate to other people differently,” concludes Dr. Van Tulleken. “You stand in solidarity with the humans around you.”

For more benefits of volunteering, check our our article: What’s in it for me? and explore our Volunteer Hub

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