Can Volunteering Help Combat Loneliness?
Did you know that almost a fifth of the British population is struggling to combat loneliness and isolation?
But considering how commonplace loneliness has become in our culture, does that mean we should just get on with? Not necessarily. In fact, medical journals say that loneliness is on par with smoking and obesity because it increases the risk of heart disease, blood pressure and stress on the body. Medical professionals have woken to the physical threat that loneliness can have.
That’s where activities like volunteering can help. By surrounding yourself with people who share your passion and enthusiasm for a cause, you’re allowing yourself the opportunity to build those lasting connections.
Not totally convinced? Let’s explore some of the ways volunteering can help you combat loneliness.
1. Volunteering is good for your health
Volunteering is a scientifically proven mood-booster. For years now, we’ve been aware of the physiological as well as psychological effects that helping others has on the body. Charitable acts spark a release of dopamine commonly known as the ‘helper’s high’.
Where loneliness inflicts chronic stress on the body, volunteering actively reduces it. In fact, many people who go out of their way to do good experience considerably less stress and less stress-related illnesses as a result.
But none of these facts should come as a surprise. Volunteering presents the rare occasion for you to throw yourself into a cause you care deeply about, meet like-minded people and see the tangible results of your actions shaping the world for the better.
2. Volunteering can combat loneliness at all ages
It would be naïve to think that loneliness only affects an aged population. More than one in two Gen Z and Millennials report frequent loneliness, making them the loneliest generations. And the reason? They don’t have the hobbies or interests that provide opportunities to meet new people. This is where volunteering fills a much-needed space.
But there’s no age limit when it comes to volunteering, and it can do wonders for teens looking to build better social skills. Volunteering can help boost a young person’s confidence and open up new friendship circles in environments outside of school or college.
For others later in life, volunteering can serve as a great catalyst for connection for when you’re in a new environment and looking for a community, or if you simply want more intimate local friendships.
3. Volunteering can provide more social opportunities in retirement age
As many hard-working befriending charities confirm, social isolation amongst the elderly still remains widespread. 3.3 million people aged over 65 in the UK live alone. That’s why having a sense of community is so important, and volunteering can offer that for many people long into their retirement years.
Volunteering is an opportunity to stimulate both your body and your mind, and it’s been shown to ward off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and functional decline, both of which are listed under long-term effects of loneliness.
What’s more, volunteering presents the occasion for more inter-generational friendships and gives people a new-found sense of purpose when they’re suddenly faced with limited opportunities to be social. Above all, it creates new social networks for those who wouldn’t otherwise be part of a community.
How can volunteering help you?
Volunteering could just be the next wonder drug in combating loneliness. But like diet and exercise, medical experts advise that real effects can only be seen if the volunteering is done regularly and often. Make sure to choose a cause that you’re passionate about and that fits with your lifestyle.
There are tons of causes that are trailblazing change in the world and could do with your help. With thousands of opportunities to choose from, you’re bound to find something you’d roll up your sleeves for.
Find out which volunteering opportunities are available today.
This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current job seeker experience.