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Is Volunteering the New Medicine?


Mahatma Gandhi once said- “The  best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

A new research by the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that serving others could also lead to good health. The report reveals that people who choose to volunteer are 38% less likely to be hospitalized. So if you are finding it difficult to stick to your health convictions then don’t worry about running to your local gym, rather go for a volunteering program.

Over 7000 people, above 50 years of age, were part of this research which also suggests that volunteers are generally more cautious with their health. Previous studies from 2013 which illustrates reduced mortality rates among American volunteers is also of a similar view. There are many other reports which suggest that volunteers of all age groups are possibly less obese, more flexible, usually healthy, have more stamina, good memory and are less stressed out.

It is difficult to say from the research if people who cared after themselves embraced volunteering or is it the other way round. Sara Konrath from Lily family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University says that “studies do show that volunteers make better decisions about their health.” She also claims that now there is ample of quality data that projects volunteering as good for health, which also tantamount to smoking as bad. She raises her concerns over why doctors mostly suggest people to quit smoking and seldom encourage people to volunteer.

Many doctors seem enthusiastic about the concept of altruism as a way to stay healthy. The British health services, NHS even promotes volunteering on their website. Noreen Hashmi, Fellow GP and Spokesperson, Medstars, acknowledges that doctors do understand that physical and mental well being benefits from volunteering. She says that “I have suggested volunteering to patients on many occasions. Often the best results are when patients don’t approach these activities as a ‘cure’ in themselves.” She goes on to say that “Genuine altruism, passion about their chosen cause and a positive mental attitude really make the difference.”

Some doctors seem to focus upon suggesting volunteering as a social activity not only to young people but also to old one’s.

20 year old Michael Kinnear, who had been volunteering with a local animal shelter after being laid off from his job, feels the positive outcomes of volunteering  on his health. “It was a pharmacist friend who actually recommended the volunteering the first time around. I was feeling depressed …When I lost my job, I started walking the dogs every morning and cleaning out cages.” This experience has left him leading a healthy and gratifying lifestyle and he feels much better now.

After hearing people’s experiences it seems like volunteering has many positive implications that go beyond mental and physical health. So if you are feeling socially isolated or unhealthy then it is time to get out on some volunteer expedition and make a difference in your life and others’.

If you are keen to experience volunteering while travelling, Bamba Experience offers some great opportunities, check out the Voluntour Experiences.