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Staying involved with volunteer opportunities after the holidays

Posted on 12-30-15 in Mindfulness

The lowest annual rate of volunteering was recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during 2014 since its first report in 2002. According to the latest data, only 25.3 percent of Americans over the age of 15 had volunteered with an organization at least once in the past year. Furthermore, people are more willing to donate their time, money and other resources at the end of the year due to the increase of charity work advertising, as told by Una Osili, Ph.D., of Indiana University. While there are a number of factors that could have contributed to this nationwide decline throughout each year, it is important to remember that volunteering does not have to be an occasional activity.

How much is enough?

There is an extensive catalog of research that supports how volunteering behavior provides positive outcomes for not only others, but for those who participate in it as well. Interestingly, multiple sources have also noticed that older individuals who give back do not receive any health benefits until they reach a certain threshold of involvement. For example:

  • In 1999, Marc A. Musick and fellow colleagues from the University of Michigan utilized data from the American’s Changing Lives national survey and determined that populations that volunteered at least 40 hours each year, as well had lower risks of mortality
  • Ming-Ching Luoh, Ph.D., of National Taiwan University and A. Regula Herzog, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan investigated the health impacts of productive social activities in 2002. The researchers found that performing more than 100 hours of volunteer or paid work in a year had protective effects against poor health and death
  • A 2005 study conducted by Terry Y. Lum, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Lightfoot, Ph.D., from the University of Minnesota measured physical and mental health outcomes of volunteers between 1993 and 2000. Results showed that at least 100 hours of volunteer service slowed self-reported health deterioration and functioning, slowed increases in depression levels and improved mortality rates

Volunteering 100 hours in a year translates to approximately two hours per week. As it stands now, Americans of age 15 and over participated in charitable activities for an average of 2.1 hours on days they did volunteer. When combined with the country’s low volunteer rate in a 12-month span, many people are not receiving the potential benefits of giving back.

Yearlong opportunities

There are various ways to get involved in charity work for more than just a single occasion. According to George Washington University’s Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, many service corps positions are long-term. Those interested in working for the government or nonprofit sector can join an AmeriCorps program, the Peace Corps or any other U.S. organization and make a difference in their community. Another way to donate more time to others is through an international program. Issues need attention all over the world. Individuals commonly take “gap years” and devote time to helping others abroad.

The inclination to give back may be sporadic or time-specific, but people and nonprofit organizations need help year-round. In addition to volunteering’s psychological benefits, Sovereign Health can also provide mental fortitude and resilience through in-depth therapy and other quality care services. Contact a member of our admissions team online or by phone 24/7 to discover options for a better life in a matter of moments.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer