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Some Thoughts On Why You Should Consider Volunteering

Along with maintaining our friendships after college and through retirement, there are certain mental health-boosting benefits associated with volunteering. Volunteering has been found to provide a great deal of stimulation and satisfaction to those who choose to give their time to a group or cause. A recent study of 2,705 volunteers age 18 and older from UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch found that 75% of those who volunteered in the past 12 months said volunteering made them feel physically healthier. Thanks to the Gamma Upsilon Alumni Association, there are always ways to give back by helping current and past brothers by getting involved and volunteering to help out with Chapter events.

Slowing Decline
A much larger study—one involving more than 64,000 subjects age 60 and older from 1998 to 2010—has found results suggesting that volunteering slows the cognitive decline of aging.

The author of that study, Sumedha Gupta, an assistant economics professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, used data from the long-running University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study to reach her conclusions. After dividing respondents into three categories—volunteers, non-volunteers and individuals who switched back and forth—she found that an individual who is volunteering 100 hours a year scores on average about 6% higher in cognitive testing than a non-volunteer.

“The effect is significant. It’s consistent,” Dr. Gupta says.

The Study’s methodology controlled for variables such as a person’s initial health and took into account external influences that would force subjects to reduce their volunteering hours. Dr. Gupto also was careful to treat as separate issues the subjects’ emotional well-being and presence of depression.

“If you keep everything else constant by putting in all these controls and following this individual over time," she says, “we find that as people volunteer, their cognitive health scores improve. If they don’t volunteer, their cognitive scores decline faster.”

The reasons behind volunteering’s boost to cognitive health, Dr. Gupta says, have to do with the unique characteristics of such activity. For starters, unlike paid work, there is a “different subjective well-being” or “warm glow” that a volunteer experiences from helping people.

Volunteering is also unique “because it supplies mental, physical and social stimulation in one package,” Dr. Gupta says. “You have to move around, you interact with people, you think about activities. Whereas doing a Sudoku puzzle offers one type of intellectual stimulation,” she says, “volunteers get all these types of stimulation simultaneously.”

More is Better
Dr. Gupta’s advice to seniors is that if they’re well enough, they should consider volunteering, and if they’re already volunteering, they should consider devoting more time each week. The data showed cognitive benefits with as little as 2 to 2½ hours of volunteering each week, on average, she says.

Aside from the health benefits, volunteering time to your fraternity helps to remind us all why we became a Delt in the first place.



Please click HERE to reach Alumni Association President Steven Sutermeister '76 and volunteer your time for Gamma Upsilon