Friday, July 13, 2012

Volunteer to improve your health

By DIANE HENTGES, United Way of Wyandotte County

There are a number of reasons that people volunteer.

Some volunteer to learn something new, so they volunteer to do the newsletter for your neighborhood association and practice using Publisher.

Maybe you are passionate about a cause - hunger in America - and volunteering for one of the food kitchen or pantries in our community is one way you can be part of the solution.

There are still others who volunteer to have something to do with their free time so Providence Medical or KU Hospital needs a volunteer for their information desks and you have the time.

We all volunteer for different reasons.

There are number of positive fringe benefits for those who volunteer. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research has found a significant connection between volunteering and good health.

This report shows that volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease.

As David Eisner, former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Services said, “Volunteering makes the heart grow stronger.”

Some interesting facts for those 65 and over are that volunteering led to lower rates of depression and a greater personal sense of accomplishment.

This greater sense of personal accomplishment led researchers to conclude that these volunteers experienced better physical and mental health.

The studies also show that those who start to volunteer early in life have better functional levels and better health outcomes later in life. A study out of Duke University found that individuals who volunteered after experiencing a heart attack reported a decrease in despair and depression.

These same studies also indicate that one has to volunteer at a certain threshold to actually reap these fringe benefits. Two studies have put that threshold for volunteering at about 100 hours per year.

Now that calculates to about two hours a week. Studies show that volunteers who do reach the 100 hours per year threshold do experience significant health benefits. Volunteering is the perfect cost-free prescription for better health and wellness.

For more information on how you can GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER please contact me at 913-371-3674 or at

You can find volunteer opportunities by checking out our Website, and click on Volunteer.