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Volunteering linked to better physical, mental health

Originally posted by Andrea Davis on the Employee Benefit News website.

Three-quarters of volunteers say volunteering has made them feel physically healthier and lowered their stress levels, according to a new study released today by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute. The study also illustrates that employers benefit from employees who volunteer in terms of better employee health and in professional skills development that employees use in the workplace.

Volunteers are also more engaged in their health than non-volunteers, with 80% of the people who’ve volunteered in the past 12 months saying they feel they have control over their health. Moreover, about one-quarter of the people who’ve volunteered in the past month say that volunteering has helped them to manage a chronic illness.

In addition to physical and mental health benefits, employees who volunteer say doing so has helped them learn valuable business skills. Sixty-four percent of employees who currently volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues has strengthened their relationships, while three-quarters of people who say that volunteering helped their career report that volunteering has helped them refine existing professional skills and build new ones.

“Employers enjoy the benefits of physically and mentally healthier employees; those that support volunteering programs in the workplace see added benefits that drive directly to their bottom line,” said Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility with UnitedHealth Group.

The findings are based on a national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive.