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The Health Benefits of Volunteering, Especially During the Holidays

Posted to: Wellness Blog by Joe Nolan on Nov 29, 2023

The holiday season is often associated with festivities, gifts, and gatherings with loved ones. While these celebrations bring joy to many, they can also be a time of stress and loneliness for others. This is where volunteering comes in as a powerful antidote to holiday blues. Beyond the obvious social and emotional rewards, volunteering during the holidays has been shown to have significant positive effects on one's health. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of volunteering for your health, backed by studies and supporting data, and provide a list of volunteer ideas for the holiday season.

The Health Benefits of Volunteering

  • Reduced Stress and Improved Mental Health
    • Numerous studies have demonstrated that volunteering can reduce stress and improve mental health. Engaging in acts of kindness and helping others triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of happiness and reduces stress. A study published in the journal "Psychosomatic Medicine" found that individuals who volunteered regularly had lower levels of stress hormones.
  • Enhanced Sense of Purpose
    • Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment, which is crucial for mental well-being. According to research published in the journal "Health Psychology," individuals who volunteered reported higher levels of life satisfaction and a greater sense of purpose in life.
  • Increased Social Connection
    • The holiday season can be a lonely time for many, but volunteering offers an opportunity to connect with others. Social isolation can lead to various health problems, including depression and anxiety. Volunteering fosters social interaction, which can help combat these issues.
  • Physical Health Benefits
    • Volunteering can also have positive effects on physical health. A study published in "Psychological Science" found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly had a lower risk of developing high blood pressure than non-volunteers. Additionally, volunteering often involves physical activity, which can contribute to better physical health.
  • Reduced Risk of Cognitive Decline
    • Engaging in meaningful activities, such as volunteering, has been associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline in older adults. A study in the journal "JAMA Psychiatry" found that volunteering was linked to a lower risk of dementia.
  • Social Connection
    • Volunteering fosters social connections, which can be a vital component of mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, strong social connections can increase your sense of belonging, reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and even lengthen your lifespan.

Here are some specific findings from studies done on the health benefits of volunteering:

  • Reduced Risk of High Blood Pressure: According to a study published in the journal "Psychological Science," adults aged 50 and older who volunteered for at least 200 hours per year were 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to non-volunteers.
  • Lower Rates of Depression: A study published in "Psychosomatic Medicine" found that individuals who volunteered had a 20% lower risk of suffering from depression compared to those who didn't volunteer.
  • Enhanced Life Satisfaction: Research in the journal "Health Psychology" revealed that volunteers reported a 7% higher level of life satisfaction compared to non-volunteers. This indicates a significant boost in overall well-being.
  • Reduced Risk of Cognitive Decline: The study in "JAMA Psychiatry" found that engaging in volunteering activities was associated with a 30% lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults. This suggests that volunteering may help protect against conditions like dementia.
  • Improved Mental Health in Youth: Young volunteers also experience benefits. A study by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that young people who volunteered were 27% more likely to report feeling optimistic about their own futures.

Volunteer Ideas for the Holiday Season

  • Serving Meals at a Homeless Shelter: Many shelters and community organizations provide hot meals during the holidays, and they often need volunteers to help serve food.
  • Toys for Tots: Joining the Toys for Tots program allows you to collect and distribute toys to children in need during the holiday season.
  • Visiting Nursing Homes: Spend time with elderly residents in nursing homes who may not have family or friends to visit them during the holidays.
  • Food Drives: Organize or participate in food drives to collect non-perishable items for local food banks.
  • Gift Wrapping for Charity: Volunteer your gift-wrapping skills at shopping centers or charity events to raise funds for a good cause.
  • Mentoring or Tutoring: Offer your time to mentor or tutor children who need educational support.
  • Sending Care Packages to Troops: Many organizations collect and send care packages to deployed military personnel during the holidays.
  • Animal Shelters: Help care for animals at local shelters by volunteering to walk dogs, clean cages, or assist with adoption events.


Volunteering during the holiday season is not only a way to spread joy and make a positive impact on your community but also a powerful means to boost your own health and well-being. The studies and data presented in this blog post support the idea that giving your time and effort can reduce stress, improve mental health, enhance your sense of purpose, and even have positive effects on physical health. So, this holiday season, consider adding volunteering to your list of traditions—it's a gift that keeps on giving, both to others and to yourself.

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