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Stressed? Then volunteer

Posted: August 13, 2014 6:56 p.m.
Updated: August 13, 2014 6:59 p.m.

People who regularly serve in their community rate their well-being higher and say they are less stressed or worried than those who do not, a Gallup poll says.

Data released Tuesday indicated that Americans who were recognized for giving time to serving their community scored higher on Gallup’s well-being index than those who did not. Those who answered positively had an average score of 70, while those who responded negatively scored an average of 58.5 points.

The score did not change significantly across age groups, though older Americans typically have higher well-being scores. Despite lower-income individuals scoring lower generally, those who said they received recognition for service reported a higher average score than the highest income earners who did not receive recognition.

“Volunteering to improve a community can foster a sense of purpose and meaning, help volunteers build social relationships and connections, increase physical activity and provide a fresh perspective on life,” Gallup said.

“Looking beyond the day-to-day struggles of one's own life and focusing externally may help decrease stress, worry and other negative emotions.”

Additionally, the rate of people who said they recently felt stressed dropped from 40 percent of Americans to 34 percent if they had served in the last year. Of those who have not received recognition for service in the last year, 42 percent said they were stressed.

“These findings, in addition to previous Gallup research, suggest that community involvement may help improve well-being and may protect individuals from daily stress and worry,” Gallup wrote. “However, the causal relationship remains unknown. It is possible that those who already have higher well-being and less stress — possibly indicating they have more free time to be involved in community activities — are simply more likely to volunteer in their communities.”

Gallup recommended governments should create opportunities for people to serve in their communities and suggested businesses encourage employees to volunteer then recognize them for their service.

“Doing so clearly benefits the community directly through the services provided and also may boost volunteers' well-being,” Gallup said.


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