The following is a guest post from Kate Rubin, Vice President of UnitedHealth Group and President of UnitedHealth Foundation. It has been gently edited for the purposes of the RW blog. Enjoy!

At UnitedHealth Group, building healthier communities is the mission of our social responsibility efforts. Using data we’ve collected on health, we link it to business goals and then leverage it to drive high-impact social responsibility initiatives.

This is why we’ve invested in research that demonstrates how volunteering is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. In Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study, we found that people who volunteer feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Volunteers tell us they are convinced their health is better because of the things they do when they volunteer. Doing good is, indeed, good for you!

Volunteering Makes a Difference

People who volunteered in the past 12 months told us volunteering has made them feel physically healthier. Additionally, volunteers are more likely than non-volunteers to consider themselves in excellent or very good health, and they are more likely to say that their health has improved over the past 12 months.

There is an even stronger connection between volunteering and mental and/or emotional health.

Volunteers gave higher ratings than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being, which includes personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships, and overall satisfaction with life. Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem.

Volunteering can also help us manage stress. The majority of people who have volunteered in the past year say that volunteering has lowered their stress levels. Volunteers stated that they felt calm and peaceful most of the time over the past month, which is much higher than the overall population. Last but not least, most surveyed reported that they had a lot of energy most of the time, again, doing better than the average adult.

It’s true: volunteering makes us feel better. And while we’re feeling better, other people who benefit from our efforts feel better, too.  Everybody wins.

Employers Get Healthier, Too

The health impacts of volunteering cascade into the workplace as well. Healthier employees lead to lower health care costs and increased productivity. Employers find employees who volunteer are less stressed, more engaged and are developing important work and “people” skills.

Throughout our research, we found that employees who volunteer through company sponsored events are up to 24% more engaged than employees who do not volunteer. It is well-documented that engaged employees deliver more value to an organization, demonstrating that investing in volunteering programs in the workplace can deliver a real return on the investment.

There’s more: job skills and employee attitudes toward colleagues and employers are also enhanced, particularly for employers who actively enable and encourage volunteering among their employees.

Whether you are talking about functional job skills or interpersonal team-building skills, volunteering provides an opportunity for employees to learn and develop skills that make them more proficient and effective in the workplace.

Volunteering supports healthier individuals, healthier communities, and healthier employers. It’s a win-win scenario that should be seized by individuals and businesses alike. Doing good is good for all of us!

Additional information on the healthy benefits of volunteering, including the full Doing Good is Good for You: 2013 Health and Volunteering Study can be found here.

Tell us how volunteering has benefited you in unexpected ways in the comment section below!

Kate Rubin
Vice President, UnitedHealth Group
President, UnitedHealth Foundation


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