Volunteering Linked to Better Physical, Mental Health

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A new study released today by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute finds that volunteering is linked to better physical, mental and emotional health.

Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study reveals that 76 percent of US adults who volunteer report that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, and 78 percent report that volunteering lowers their levels of stress, leading to feeling better than adults who do not volunteer. The study also illustrates that employers benefit from employees who volunteer in terms of better employee health and in professional-skills development that employees use in the workplace.

The study reveals four key benefits of volunteering that make a positive impact on people’s health:

Health: volunteers say that they feel better – physically, mentally and emotionally;

Stress: volunteering helps people manage and lower their stress levels;

Purpose: volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and to others;

Engagement: volunteers are more informed health care consumers, and more engaged and involved in managing their health.

The study also shows that volunteering is good for employers:

>>the health benefits volunteers enjoy also benefit the workplace – employers can expect lower health care costs and higher productivity from employees who volunteer;

>>volunteers in the study report lower stress levels; other, established research shows that reducing employee stress contributes to higher productivity and levels of engagement;

>>volunteering can develop employees’ work skills, which benefits employer and employee;

>>volunteers report that volunteering helps them build teamwork and time-management skills; fosters stronger relationships with colleagues; and supports professional networking;

>>volunteer activities lead to stronger positive feelings toward an employer when volunteer programs are supported in the workplace.

To read the full Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, visit unitedhealthgroup.com/SR.

“These findings show that the benefits of volunteering help strengthen communities and have real, measurable health benefits for the people who volunteer,” said Kate Rubin, UnitedHealth Group vice president of Social Responsibility. “Employers enjoy the benefits of physically and mentally healthier employees; those that support volunteering programs in the workplace see added benefits that drive directly to their bottom line.”

Rubin will present the study results at the 2013 National Conference on Volunteering and Service, convened by the volunteer service organization Points of Light, June 19-22, in Washington, DC.

The Health and Volunteering Study explored the relationship between volunteerism and health, and looked at the role employers play in encouraging volunteerism. The study, which surveyed more than 3,300 U.S. adults, is part of UnitedHealth Group’s continued effort to support volunteerism, understand its impact on health, and strengthen employees’ connections to the communities where they live and work. It expands on the findings established in a 2010 survey by UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch around the same topic.

“The business community, the health sector, individuals and families all have a stake in building a healthier future for our nation, and that begins with improving our communities’ health in ways that are sustainable and affordable,” said Dr. Carol Simon, director of the Optum Institute, which provides analytical insights on the nation’s rapidly changing health care landscape. “Volunteering builds health outside traditional clinical settings by engaging people in activities that strengthen communities and personal health at the same time – a win-win for everyone.”

Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study used an index-validated scale to understand the experienced physical and mental health benefits of volunteering. The study was conducted by Harris Interactive from Feb. 9 through March 18, 2013. This report was based on a quantitative mixed-mode survey (i.e. online and telephone) of 3,351 adults 18 or older and included indexed-validated measures for physical and mental health. Respondents were general-population members of an online consumer research panel or recruited through random-digit-dial methods and interviewed by mobile or landline telephones. The results were weighted to be representative of the total U.S. adult population.