By Mimik PR
Here’s why volunteering is one of the best things you can do for your health in 2024
While you’ve no doubt heard the old idiom, ‘kill you with kindness’, did you know that you can actually promote and protect your health by practising kindness?
Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, a documentary trending on Netflix, follows author Dan Buettner as he journeys to the world’s ‘blue zones’; regions around the globe that see an unusually high number of people living long, vibrant lives.
When investigating the secrets of those who live to around the age of 100 years, Buettner discovered that volunteering was one of the factors that could contribute to an individual living a long, healthy life.
Tshego Bokaba, CSI Manager at Momentum Metropolitan, which has one of the most well-established staff volunteerism programmes in South Africa, believes that the reason for this comes down to social connection. “Studies have shown that the quality of one’s relationships can not only influence one’s mental health but even one’s mortality, she says.
“We’ve seen the impact that volunteering has in real-time among our employees who volunteer. Giving to others helps to protect mental and physical health, reduces stress, combats depression, keeps you mentally stimulated, and provides you with a sense of purpose, she adds. “This purpose, as well as a strong sense of community, are vital to sustained mental and physical health.”
One PLOS Medicine study underpins this, revealing that individuals with more robust social ties have a 50% higher likelihood of living longer compared to those lacking such relationships. The study identified social integration, a gauge of one's involvement in their community, as the most influential factor. Notably, these findings held true across diverse demographic factors such as age, gender, health condition, and cause of death.
That said, it seems the elderly in particular stand to benefit from the health effects of volunteering. Says Bokaba, “Volunteering after retirement can help to keep seniors active and engaged. It helps to prevent the feeling of idleness or not contributing to society that can be detrimental to mental health, by countering the feelings of isolation and lack of purpose that can often occur as one ages.” She adds that volunteering can keep the mind active and help prevent cognitive decline by challenging seniors to learn new skills and embrace new responsibilities.
One study on the cumulative health benefits of volunteering in adults concluded that volunteering should be actively promoted by public health, education and policy practitioners as a kind of healthy lifestyle, especially for the population subgroups such as the elderly, who generally have poorer health and lower participation in volunteering.
Momentum Metropolitan’s staff volunteerism programme sees staff actively encouraged to support the causes that are closest to their hearts. This is achieved through a series of initiatives and incentives, such as an additional leave day reserved for volunteer efforts, as well as Momentum Metropolitan’s annual Lesedi Awards, which recognises the company’s most dedicated volunteers. “While our CSI mandate is primarily centred around youth upliftment, we recognise that we have a diverse base of employees who each have different things that are important to them.
“We facilitate opportunities for them to support the causes they care about, as we’ve seen – first hand – the effects that volunteering can have in terms of personal and professional development, as well as one’s sense of purpose and even their general well-being.”
Bokaba’s advice? “Volunteering not only helps to make the lives of others better, it can contribute to improving your health. It’s a win-win for all.
“I challenge you to make volunteering your resolution for 2024, and you will see the incredible, positive effects that it will have across every facet of your life.”