Two years ago, Lauren was pretty happy—and busy—with her career and personal life, but felt like something was missing. When she read a local news story about a program that matched mentors with people pulling themselves out of poverty, something clicked. She started volunteering with the Circles program, and it changed her life, and the lives of people in her community.
Lauren is one of the 24.9 percent of Americans who volunteer, according to the latest data, contributing 7.9 billion hours of service every year. In Utah, which has the highest volunteer rate in the country, 43.2 percent of residents spend time volunteering. They make programs like Circles and other services for people in need, successful.
The obvious advantage of volunteering is feeling good about giving back or helping someone. But the benefits of volunteering go well beyond that and will change your life. Becoming a volunteer will impact your health, deepen or change connections and even help your career.
Believe it or not, volunteering will improve your mental and physical health, and you may even live longer. Research done over the last few decades shows that there’s a strong relationship between health and volunteering. Some of the studies, though, indicate that people need to volunteer around 100 hours per year or more to get the most health benefits.
Based on extensive research, people who volunteer live happier, healthier and longer lives than their non-volunteering peers.
People who volunteer have deeper, and more, social connections than non-volunteers. Lauren, who decided to become an ally in the Circles program, made meaningful relationships with people she wouldn’t have met otherwise. She formed friendships with fellow mentors as well as participants in the program. Lauren got to help, and watch, as people learned new life skills and made better lives for themselves out of poverty. She, and volunteers like her, are the reason the nationwide Circles Initiative is successful. Like Lauren, volunteers build better connections and form closer relationships and attachments than people who don’t volunteer.
Being civic-minded also has career advantages.
Spending time volunteering will improve your career prospects, whether it gives you an advantage over other job candidates or you gain new skills.
Volunteering will improve your life. You’ll be healthier—mentally and physically, connect with people in your community, and improve your career prospects.