Is This the Best Way for Retirees to Avoid Loneliness?

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Senior at a library
Sergey Nivens /

Most of us hope for a retirement full of joy, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, your post-work years can be quite lonely.

However, there is one great way to combat such isolation: volunteering in your community. Older adults who volunteer 100 hours or more per year report lower levels of loneliness, according to a recent University of Michigan study published in the journal of the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work.

Reducing loneliness is important, because research has linked a sense of isolation among older adults to:

  • Higher rates of mortality
  • Decreased physical and mental health
  • Reduced cognitive functioning

The University of Michigan study looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study from between the years 2006 and 2018, particularly from 5,000 individuals age 60 and older who said they did not experience loneliness in 2006.

All participants in the study kept track of how often they were involved in formal volunteer activities, such as those done under the direction of an organization.

A dozen years later, those who engaged in more than 100 hours of volunteer activity annually reported lower rates of loneliness than others. This was true regardless of gender.

The study adds to a growing body of research linking volunteerism to improved mental health. For example, research published in 2018 found that volunteering produces a sense of social connectedness that helps alleviate symptoms of depression.

Other research has found that volunteers are happier with their lives and report better health overall.

As we have reported, one segment of older Americans is especially likely to benefit from giving back to the community. For more, read “Volunteering Offers Bigger Benefits to This Group of Retirees.”

Looking for additional tips about making your golden years gleam? Check out “8 of the Greatest Sources of Fulfillment for Retirees.”

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