I recently attended a conference about my generation, the Millennials. One thing I heard at the conference that makes me really proud to be a Millennial is that my generation is volunteering at rates unmatched by other generations. This is good news since volunteering is linked to many health benefits.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the CDC, states with high volunteer rates showed lower rates of mortality and less incidences of heart disease. In addition to lower rates of heart disease, people who volunteer experience better health in later years, have higher functional capability, and lower rates of depression. A Duke study even showed that individuals who had heart attacks had lower mortality rates after the attack if they were volunteers.
Two people that I truly admire and try to model my life after are my grandparents. For many years they volunteered their time to helping others. I remember visiting them as a kid and going on long van rides to various bakeries to collect day old bread and baked goods. For many years, my grandparents drove 50 miles each day to pick up bread and deliver it to those less fortunate at shelters and charities around the city. I didn’t really understand the magnitude of their actions then but now I am able to see how much of a difference they made in the lives of people they never met.
My grandparents also volunteered their time at the polls come election season. They would get up at 4:00 AM to get to the polls on election day and make sure ballots were cast and counted. Another thing I remember them doing was yard work for their church. My grandparents stayed physically fit by cutting the lawn and raking leaves for their church.
Though my grandma and grandpa are in a nursing home now, they are 91 and 93 respectively and lived most of their lives as people who gave back to the community. I have no doubt that is one reason why they are still here and healthy!
Find something you’re passionate about and start volunteering. Your health (and heart) will thank you!