- A recent study suggests that children who volunteer often exhibit better physical and mental health.
- While previous research has connected volunteering with improved health in adults, this study extends this connection to children.
- Children who volunteered were found to be 66% more likely to be “flourishing” – characterized by enthusiasm for life, curiosity, persistence, and a calm approach to challenges.
- The study acknowledges the possibility that children from families with a positive predisposition towards volunteering might naturally have higher health and happiness levels.
- The study suggests that while volunteering could enhance children’s well-being, making volunteering opportunities more accessible should be society’s responsibility.
The tradition of volunteering in one’s free time doesn’t just assist others—it seems it could also have some significant benefits for kids themselves.
A recent study has discovered an interesting possibility: kids in the U.S. who engage in community service activities often exhibit physical and mental prosperity.
The Link Between Volunteering and Kids’ Health
The general health of young individuals who have volunteered in the previous year appears to be superior to those who haven’t done voluntary work. An optimistic perspective on life, as well as a lower predisposition to anxiety, depression, or behaviour issues, were also associated with these children.
These results, however, do not clarify whether kids who are already content and have a strong sense of well-being are more likely to volunteer, or if volunteering enhances this sense of well-being.
Kevin Lanza, the head researcher of this study and an assistant professor at a well-renown Health School located in Houston, adds that this research lays the groundwork for further studies that can follow kids over a longer period to see whether volunteering fosters better physical and mental well-being in the long run.
Promoting Volunteering for Well-being
According to Lanza, if volunteering indeed uplifts the well-being of young volunteers, it would be a beneficial move for all. The prospect of advocating for volunteering as a method of public health advancement could prove quite appealing.
Past research has displayed connections between volunteering and better physical and mental health, but most of these studies are centred around adults, even though a few have implied that teenage volunteers might be healthier, and more involved at school than their peers.
Deep Dive in the Survey Data
Building upon this, Lanza’s team decided to evaluate data from a long-lasting nationwide survey tracking the health and well-being of U.S. children and teenagers. The data of nearly 52,000 kids aged between 6 and 17 over the 2019-2020 survey period was underscored.
The survey indicated that children and teenagers who had volunteered in the previous year were in better health, according to their parents’ assessment compared to those who hadn’t volunteered. Moreover, kids who volunteered were 66% more likely to be “flourishing” – an overall enthusiasm for life, gauged by questions about the kids’ curiosity, persistence, and calmness in dealing with challenges.
Ying Chen, a research scholar specializing in health and happiness associated with Harvard University, appreciates the study’s focus on children and its examination of various aspects of their well-being. However, Chen also urges caution when interpreting the cause-effect of these findings.
Chen believes that parents who promote their children to volunteer might be naturally optimistic and may also exhibit high levels of health and happiness. She also points out that the results are based on parents’ evaluations, which could be biased.
Role of Volunteering in Boosting Kids’ Well-being
Even with these reservations, there are reasons to consider that volunteering can enhance kids’ well-being. If the act of volunteering encourages kids to interact more with the world around them, this social engagement, especially one focused on a shared, positive goal, can be quite beneficial.
“Volunteering is community-building,” Lanza asserts. For younger children, volunteering almost always involves their parents or other adults in their lives – a factor that could further enhance their well-being.
Lanza emphasizes that no child should be forced into volunteering. The crucial aspect is to ensure equal opportunities for all children, regardless of their family income or resources. He suggests that making volunteering opportunities more accessible should be the responsibility of society, especially if these opportunities can also enhance the overall well-being of volunteers.
Click here to learn more about the potential health benefits of volunteering.