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date: 30 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The literature on the impact of volunteering on well-being, health, morbidity, and mortality is reviewed. Positive effects for teenagers and college students include avoidance of problem behaviors and experiences such as depression, alcohol and drug use, delinquency, unintended pregnancy, earning poor grades, and school dropout. Teenage volunteers also develop positive habits of social responsibility and are more likely to be engaged in their communities as adults. The impact of volunteering among the elderly includes increased positive mood, greater psychological well-being, increased physical activity, improved self-reported health, lower morbidity, and even decreased mortality. Possible sociological, psychological, and physiological mechanisms underlying these effects are discussed, including decreased anomie, an increase in “mattering,” and physiological processes such as increased oxytocin production and strengthening of the immune system. Finally, recommendations are made regarding social policy.

Keywords: Altruism, volunteering, health, well-being, life span

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