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Altruism and HealthPerspectives from Empirical Research$
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Stephen G. Post

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195182910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182910.001.0001

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Does Volunteering Foster Physical Health and Longevity?

Does Volunteering Foster Physical Health and Longevity?

(p.15) 1 Does Volunteering Foster Physical Health and Longevity?
Altruism and Health

Doug Oman

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers a scientific perspective and reviews available evidence on how volunteering affects health and longevity. It focuses on formal volunteer work — performed through a school, hospital, library, or environmental, political, or other organization. Formal volunteer work stands in contrast to more casual or unorganized helping activities, often termed ‘informal helping’, such as giving directions to a stranger or serving as a caregiver for a family member or a neighbour. The chapter's primary focus is on physical health outcomes, although it also cites evidence linking volunteering with improved mental health and subjective well-being. First, it describes the mechanisms by which volunteering might affect physical health, as well as moderating factors that might strengthen or weaken these influences. Next, it reviews empirical evidence suggesting that volunteering may indeed provide physical and mental health benefits. It concludes by discussing some practical implications and needs for further research.

Keywords:   formal volunteer work, health effects, longevity, physical health, mental health

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