The million-dollar question

Does Volunteering Make Us Happier, or Are Happier People More Likely to Volunteer?

New research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health—good news at a time when many people are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers examined data from nearly 70,000 research participants in the United Kingdom who received surveys about their volunteering habits and their mental health, including their distress and functioning in everyday life, every two years from 1996 to 2014.

Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. Additionally, the researchers found that people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.

According to the 2020 mental health commission report, in Western Australia the suicide rate during the period 2007-2011 was higher in rural and remote areas compared to urban and city areas. Rates of suicide for males were particularly high in the Kimberley and Goldfields Health Zones at 2.0 and 1.5 times greater than the State rate respectively.

The combination of social isolation and lack of available services in rural and remote areas may be contributing factors to the higher suicide rates. Social stigma remains a major barrier preventing people from seeking help in many rural and remote communities. Suicide prevention and crisis intervention strategies therefore need to be both adapted and led at a local level to be most effective.

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