Volunteering and the path to happiness

Traci MurphyDec. 23, 2021

We’ve been through a lot during the pandemic. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ve got a remedy. Consider volunteering! That’s right. When you volunteer, not only are you helping people in need in your community, you’re helping yourself, too. The proof is in the results of several studies:

  • 93 percent of volunteers reported an improved mood 
  • 88 percent reported increased self-esteem by giving back
  • 79 percent reported lower stress levels 
  • 75 percent of volunteers said it made them feel “physically healthier”1

How do the benefits of helping others foster physical and emotional health? According to Ricky Lawton, associate director at Simetrica Research Consultancy and lead author of a study looking at mental health and volunteers published last year, three factors are at play.2

First, volunteering appears to be intrinsically rewarding — when we help others, we experience an extended boost in happiness. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve volunteered for years or are just starting your volunteer career — volunteering makes you happier over time. Reading Mentor Ellen McCarthy recently said this about her experience: 

“Spending 30 minutes a week reading remotely with a student through Lead to Read KC has been very fulfilling and fun for me. My reading buddy, Naveah, is bright and works hard to learn new words each week. One week, she proudly showed me that she was writing down some of the words we were reading. That was very impressive! I’m really enjoying getting to know Naveah and helping her practice her reading skills. She’s doing great, and I tell her so!”

Second, volunteering boosts our sense of social connection. In fact, 85 percent of volunteers developed new friendships through volunteering. And 89 percent reported an expanded worldview.1

Third, volunteering can be a way to build professional skills. This benefit is especially relevant to young adults. Lawton’s study shows that participants ages 16-24 and 55-74 were especially likely to benefit from volunteering, perhaps because of the opportunity to build social connections and new skills.2

Ready to get started? Lead to Read KC reading and mentoring sessions resume for most of our partner schools the week of January 10. We will be serving 100+ additional students in the second semester, and many students are waiting to be paired with a Reading Mentor

Become a Reading Mentor with Lead to Read KC today! Already a Reading Mentor? Invite a friend or colleague to volunteer with you. 

1United Healthcare and Volunteer Match, 2017

2How volunteering can help your mental health