Volunteering: A Prescription for Better Health
Research studies consistently show that volunteering promotes better health and longer life. Volunteering promotes well-being and has a protective effect against the development of mood problems. Volunteering has even been shown to prolong life. A study published earlier this year in the journal Health Psychology reported longer life spans among volunteers. This study followed over 10,000 high school graduates from their 1957 graduation until 2008. In 2008, 2 percent those who had volunteered during the previous 10 years had died, compared with 4 percent of non-volunteers. And among volunteers, risk of death was lowest for those volunteering regularly compared with occasional volunteers. Overall, chances of being alive in 2008 increased for each hour volunteered per month.
Volunteering is not just for the young and already very healthy individuals. A recent study from Arizona State University published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development confirmed that younger and older adults get similar health benefits received from volunteering. Furthermore, benefits were even greater among people who themselves had chronic medical conditions, suggesting that having chronic illnesses shouldn’t necessarily prevent you from volunteering.
If you love pets, there are lots of great ways to combine your love of pets and getting health benefits from becoming a volunteer:
- Contact your local animal shelter about volunteer opportunities. You might become a dog walker or cat petter to enjoy spending time with lonely pets still looking for their forever homes.
- Look into animal-assisted therapy, where well-trained pets visit people in need to spread cheer and comfort. Studies consistently show marked health benefits for those receiving pet therapy visits and you’ll enjoy the special bond you’ll develop with your pet from sharing in this work. The American Kennel Club even offers a new Therapy Dog title. To get started investigating therapy dog work, visit the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen site and www.FitAsFido.com.
- Grab a leash and sign up for a charity walk. Lots of organizations use walks as fundraisers. Later this month, my terriers will enjoy a May weekend, walking with their friends in the Great Strides Walk to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
- Add your dogs to something you’re passionate about. My dogs and I have been deeply moved by the service and sacrifice of men and women serving in the military. One of the ways we say thank you is through our work with the Doggie Donation Corps – a motley group of dogs who use their cuteness to help beg for donations to help fund the training of service dogs for disabled Veterans through the Pawz For Wounded Veterans program.
How have your pets helped you get healthier through volunteering? I’d love to hear about your volunteering adventures.