THURSDAY, June 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) — For adults older than 50 years, volunteering is associated with a reduced risk for mortality and physical functioning limitations, according to a study published online June 11 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Eric S. Kim, Ph.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined the association between changes in volunteering and subsequent health and well-being outcomes using data from 12,998 participants in the Health and Retirement Study aged >50 years. Health and well-being outcomes included 34 indicators of physical health, health behaviors, and psychosocial well-being.

The researchers found that during the four-year follow-up, participants who volunteered ≥100 hours/year versus 0 hours/year had a reduced risk for mortality and physical functioning limitations, higher physical activity, and better psychosocial outcomes, including higher positive affect, optimism, and purpose in life and lower depressive symptoms, hopelessness, loneliness, and infrequent contact with friends. There was no association seen between volunteering and other physical health outcomes, health behaviors, or psychosocial outcomes.

“With further research, policies, and interventions aimed at encouraging more volunteering it might be an innovative way of simultaneously enhancing society and fostering a trajectory of healthy aging (on some indicators) in the large and rapidly growing population of older adults,” the authors write.

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