Volunteering Offers Bigger Benefits to This Group of Retirees

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Senior volunteer
Dmytro Zinkevych / Shutterstock.com

Volunteering during your golden years can boost both physical and psychological well-being — and the boost is especially large for those with less wealth, a new study finds.

Despite this truth, older adults with key advantages — such as a bigger nest egg — are more likely to give their time to good causes, according to the recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Each year, 29 million older Americans volunteer, the study authors say. But in examining survey data on thousands of people age 50 and older, researchers discovered that those in the lowest wealth quintile (the bottom 20%) reported “significantly better” health after volunteering, as compared to those in the highest wealth quintile (the top 20%).

Overall, though, volunteering had a beneficial impact on self-reported health and reduced depressive symptoms in all older adults, regardless of their wealth status.

In a press release, study co-author Cal Halvorsen, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Boston College, says the findings are particularly notable because older adults in the lowest wealth quintile tend to report lower self-rated health than those with more money:

“It is noteworthy that formal volunteering may operate as a health equalizer. Policymakers and charitable organizations tend to focus on the middle class to wealthy volunteers, but it’s important to eliminate barriers to volunteering among the least wealthy, such as lack of transportation, discrimination, or lack of organizational support.”

The news that volunteering offers large benefits to retirees is no surprise to us. We often have reported about how doing good for others is also good for you.

For example, seniors say being generous and giving back has been the fourth-greatest source of fulfillment during their golden years, according to a recent study by Edward Jones.

In fact, giving back was far more important to happiness than accumulating wealth. To learn more, check out “8 of the Greatest Sources of Fulfillment for Retirees.”

Not only does volunteering make you feel better, but it may actually help you live longer. As we reported, a study published in the journal Health Psychology found that volunteering extends life — but only if your motives are pure.

For more on this interesting finding, check out “7 Hobbies That Help You Live Longer.”

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