Improving Mental Health

Here’s an interesting way that reseachers believe you may be able to improve your mental health……volunteer. A new study suggests that volunteering after age 40 can benefit your brain.

From Time Magazine:

Volunteering may “provide a sense of purpose,” the researchers write in the study, while helping maintain social networks that are critical as people age.

Interestingly, people in the 40 and older groups appeared to have the greatest health benefit from the practice. The effect increased as people got older, and it was more robust among people who said they volunteered frequently compared to people who volunteered less often. “One explanation might be that during younger ages, volunteering may be perceived of as yet another obligatory task to fulfill in order to be a good student, parent, worker and so forth, so it does not have beneficial effects on health,” the researchers suggest.

Sounds promising, but before you run out to sign-up and volunteer, check out what CBS News wrote in its story. “The authors emphasize that the research is observational and does not prove that volunteering directly causes improvements in mental health and well-being. Furthermore, Dr. Dimitris Kiosses, geriatric psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, points out that it’s not clear which way the relationship goes. “You may have people whose mental well-being is better, and because their mental well-being is better they may be able to spend more time volunteering,” he said.

Fox News quoted lead author Dr. Faiza Tabassum of Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute at the University of Southampton in the UK., as saying:

“There is a general consensus that volunteering is beneficial to everyone regardless of the age. However, our study has shown volunteering may be more strongly associated with mental well-being at some points of the life-course than others.”

“The findings could shape government policy toward engaging the elderly population in volunteering activities, which, if it improves health, would decrease dependence on the healthcare system.”

The need to improve mental health has generated a lot of attention in recent years. So let us know what you think about the connection between volunteering and improving ones mental health. Anytime we can generate fresh dialogue around important health issues, we believe that takes us another step closer to our long-term goal of maki8ng Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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