Volunteers are healthier, happier and live longer

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Pictured: Two volunteers on camp with two participants

It's National Volunteer Week, so here at the Y we’re taking some time out to thank and recognise our volunteers for the incredible work they do in our communities. But, while the Y wouldn’t be the same without our 1,000 volunteers, we also know there are some excellent benefits for those who give their time that money simply can’t buy.

Hundreds of studies have been conducted surrounding why people volunteer and what the benefits are. In Australia, we have considerable portion of the population investing their time in causes they care about - the 2016 Census recorded that 19% (3.6 million) of Australians over the age of 15 volunteer.

So in light of this and to celebrate National Volunteer Week, we’ve summed up the top three reasons to start volunteering today.

1. Increase your mental and physical health

Volunteering can improve your self-confidence, reduce the risk of depression, lower stress and even increase your lifespan. By helping others and the community you will feel a sense of purpose and pride, leading to a healthy boost of self-confidence. Loneliness and social isolation can often lead to poor mental health, anxiety and even depression. People who volunteer tend to form strong social networks and connections, which minimises this risk.

Studies have found that a good way to lower stress levels is by focusing on an activity that isn’t related to the cause of the stress. Therefore, volunteering selflessly for an organisation or cause has been directly linked to decreasing stress levels and lowering blood pressure.

Along with all of the mental health benefits, volunteering can increase your lifespan. A study from 2012 found that people who volunteer for genuine and selfless reasons live longer than those who don’t. It is believed that the main reason for this is a combination of the mental health benefits listed above.

2. Boost your career

If you’re looking to kick-start or change your career, volunteering can be a great way to get experience, develop new skills and expand your network. Getting into the workforce can be extremely difficult and most employers will want industry experience before hiring someone. Volunteering can help you stand out from a pool of applicants, but keep in mind that building your career brownie points should not be your sole motivator when volunteering. 

3. Support your community and make new friends

According to Volunteering Australia, volunteering promotes active citizenship and creates diverse social networks. Volunteers are more likely to attend community events and provide assistance to someone outside their own household than non-volunteers. Volunteering can be a great way to make new social connections and strengthen your existing friendships. Spending time with people who share a common interest can build meaningful and long-lasting relationships.

Charities rely heavily on volunteers. A study conducted by the Bureau of Statistics found that volunteers make up 265, 600 full time employees within the not-for-profit sector in Australia. Many of these organisations would not exist without the hard-work and dedication of their volunteers.

The YMCA would like to thank all of our volunteers, past and current. The Y gains so much from your time, energy and efforts, and we hope that you gain just as much back.