How volunteering at Christmas can benefit your mental health

For those that find Christmas a tricky time of the year, giving to others through volunteering can help to take you out of yourself, increase your self-esteem and boost your wellbeing. This blog will tell you all about how the season of giving can improve your mental health.

Christmas can be a mixed time; with some people getting wrapped up in the seasonal spirit while others experience increased feelings of loneliness, or have their mental health impacted by social pressures or disruption of their normal routine. A way to tackle this difficulty can be to focus outwards on others, and connect through volunteering:

Look at how many people get involved in volunteering, so you can, too!

  • Over a quarter (26%) of people participate in formal volunteering at least once a month.
  • People who regularly volunteer spend an average of 12.6 hours volunteering each month
  • The most common volunteering activity is organising or helping to run an activity or event and raising or handling money/taking part in sponsored events.
  • 62% of regular volunteers do so because they want to improve things or help people,

This is from the National Citizenship Survey conducted by the Department for Communities and Local Government, in 2008-2009 in England1:

Lots of people volunteer in this season of giving

  • Around 1 in 5 adults in Great Britain intend to volunteer to help others over the holiday period, resulting in a collective 50 million volunteer hours.
  • The most commonly reported activities included helping: older people (59%), children and young people (54%), the homeless (53%), supporting mental health projects (49%) and helping refugees and asylum seekers (32%)

Research by the Royal Voluntary Service in 20172:

How can volunteering help me?

Volunteering can be a wonderful way of helping others, but it may also have benefits for those doing the volunteering. In the 2008-2009 National Citizenship survey, 65% of regular volunteers said that a benefit of volunteering was the “satisfaction they get from seeing the results” of their support1.

In what ways can volunteering help my mental health?

Research on volunteering suggests that volunteering is linked to improved life satisfaction and wellbeing, and lower levels of depression3.

One survey found that in Great Britain, those who regularly engage in volunteering have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who never volunteered4 and volunteering may have a positive impact on wellbeing that increases over time with sustained activity5.

This may especially be the case for older adults

A review of the research on the benefits of volunteering in older adults found that across studies, volunteering in older adults was associated with reduced symptoms of depression, improved health, fewer functional limitations, and overall lower mortality7

Want to get involved? Then here are ways you can volunteer this holiday period (and beyond):

If you would like to volunteer, consider the types of things you would like to do, the skills and time you are able to offer, and where you would most like to help make a difference.

You can search for volunteering opportunities in your local community through internet searches or databases like Do-it.org or vInspired, by speaking to friends and family who already volunteer, or by consulting your local Volunteer Centre.

You can also explore volunteering opportunities directly from charities or organisations like the ones below:

Supporting Older Adults *

Supporting Children and Young People

Helping the Homeless

Supporting Mental Health Projects

Supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers

We need your help

Christmas is a difficult time for many. We are working to ensure good mental health for all at all times of the year. We can't do this without your help. Please join our movement and consider a donation today.

Donate now


References

  1. Department for Communities and Local Government. (2010). 2008-2009 Citizenship Survey: Volunteering and charitable giving topic report. Retrieved from: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120919214053/http://www.comm...
  2. Royal Voluntary Service. (2017). Millions to do voluntary service this Christmas. Retrieved from: https://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/news-and-events/news/millions-t...
  3. Jenkinson, C.E., Dickens, A.P., Jones, K., Thompson-Coon, J., Taylor, R.S., Rogers, M., … Richards, S.H. (2013). Is volunteering a public health intervention? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the health and survival of volunteers. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 773. Retrieved from: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2458-13...
  4. Tabassum, F., Mohan, J., & Smith, J. (2016). Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ Open, 6. Retrieved from: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/8/e011327?utm_source=trendmd&utm_mediu...
  5. Binder, M., & Freytag, A. (2013). Volunteering, subjective well-being and public policy. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34, 97-119. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167487012001456
  6. Tabassum, F., Mohan, J., & Smith, J. (2016). Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ Open, 6. Retrieved from: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/8/e011327?utm_source=trendmd&utm_mediu...
  7. Anderson, N.D., Damianakis, T., Kroger, E., Wagner, L.M., Dawson, D.R., Binns, M.A., … The BRAVO Team. (2014). The benefits associated with volunteering among seniors: A critical review and recommendations for future research. Psychological Bulletin. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2515068