Friday, June 12, 2020

Volunteering May Boost Longevity, Mental Health in Adults Over 50

Volunteering at least two hours a week may increase longevity and improve mental health in adults over age 50, suggests a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“The growing older adult population possesses a vast array of skills and experiences that can be leveraged for the greater good of society via volunteering,” wrote Eric S. Kim, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues. “[P]olicies and interventions aimed at encouraging more volunteering might be an innovative way of simultaneously enhancing society and fostering a trajectory of healthy aging.”

To arrive at their conclusion, the researchers studied data from approximately 13,000 participants in the Health and Retirement Study, a large, ongoing study of adults aged 50 years and older in the United States that began in 2006. Study researchers interview participants upon their enrollment, after which the participants complete a questionnaire about various aspects of their health. One question asks the participants whether they had spent any time in the previous 12 months doing volunteer work for religious, educational, health-related, or other charitable organizations, and if so, how much time the participants devote to their volunteer activities.

During the four-year follow-up, participants who volunteered 100 hours a year or more had a 44% lower risk of dying and a 17% lower risk of limitations in their physical functioning than those who did not volunteer. They also had higher positive affect, optimism, and sense of purpose in life and lower depressive symptoms, hopelessness, and loneliness than those who did not volunteer. There was no evidence that volunteering was associated with other outcomes such as the number of chronic conditions participants had or whether volunteering was associated with life satisfaction.

(Image: iStock/Wavebreakmedia)

Time for Action: APA to Hold Town Hall on Structural Racism

APA President Jeffrey Geller, M.D., M.P.H., will lead a webinar town hall on Monday, June 15, at 8 p.m. EDT with distinguished panelists on the topic of structural racism. Panelists include Danielle Hairston, M.D.; Thea James, M.D.; Ayana Jordan, M.D., Ph.D.; and Walter E. Wilson Jr., M.D., M.H.A. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A session with APA members about the way forward for our organization.

Learn More and Register Now


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.