It’s Good to be Good: prescribing volunteerism for health, happiness, resilience, and longevity


Do you need reasons to be kind? Maybe not, but here's a pretty good one: it does wonders for your personal health.

This Canadian Broadcasting Corporation blog reports on the work of Stephen Post, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York. Post conducted a 2010 US study that surveyed 5000 randomly selected adults about volunteerism. Among those who volunteered:

• 96% of the volunteers reported that volunteering makes them happier;

• 68% said volunteering ''has made me feel physically healthier;"

• 92% reported that it ''enriches my sense of purpose in life;''

• 78% that it helps with recovery ''from loss and disappointment:''

And the list goes on.

The CBC report continues

Another study found that volunteering led to lower cholesterol and inflammation in high-school students and further studies found that it significantly reduced hypertension in older adults.

Post says, several studies of older adults show that - after controlling for other physical conditions -  those that volunteer even live one or two years longer than their non-volunteering counterparts."If you could put this in a bottle and market it, you'd be a billionaire overnight. But the thing is, it's right within us," he says.

Post has even addressed the United States Congress, arguing that the medical community should be empowered to use volunteer work as a treatment option for a long list of health conditions.

Here is a paper from Stephen Post (PDF) on the details of his findings.