“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

We’ve heard it from all kinds of people in all walks of life. And we know it in our hearts. Furthermore, research has confirmed it: By helping others, you help yourself – spiritually and physically.

A research review of the health benefits of volunteering has documented a real connection between volunteering and good health. Volunteers, according to the report, have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less heart disease.

The research review was undertaken by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a social science research organization that evaluates service programs.

The Health Benefits of Volunteering reviews major findings from more than 30 studies on the relationship between health and volunteering. The studies, which were controlled for other factors, found that volunteering leads to improved physical and mental health.

Volunteering has been shown to dramatically lesson the symptoms of chronic pain and depression. It also contributes to factors that support heart and immune health. And it contributes to social and relationship skills, self-confidence and life satisfaction – essential for mental and physical well-being.

The research suggests that volunteering is particularly beneficial to the health of older adults and those serving 100 hours annually.

If you’ve thought about volunteering in your community but don’t know exactly where to start, volunteermatch.org is a great place to find out. Just plug in your location and a few keywords – something to indicate your interests, for example, “environment,” “animals,” or “children.”

AARP’s “Create the Good” campaign is another place to start your search for volunteer service. The range of opportunities is wide, and you can get your feet wet by starting small – a volunteer-from-home project to help support U.S. troops serving abroad. Go to createthegood.org for more information.

Have you experienced the benefits of volunteering?

Nationalservice.gov: The Health Benefits of Volunteering (PDF)