Does volunteering improve your wellbeing?
This blog was written by Pat Stanley, our Volunteering Development Manager. Pat helps charities and organisations develop their volunteer programmes and volunteer management skills, delivering training and forums that are frequently over-subscribed and supporting organisations on a 1-to-1 basis.
Click on her face to get in touch with her or find out more about what she can offer!
Tracking wellbeing in volunteers
With a growing awareness of the health benefits of volunteering, Volunteer Centre Sutton wanted to understand more about the impact that volunteering may have on a person’s health and wellbeing. We worked in partnership with Merton & Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group over a 1 year period to pilot an innovative ‘Prescribed Volunteering’ programme that sought to track the wellbeing of new volunteers at various points along their volunteering journey. We aimed to target 25 local people on the pilot, 60% of which would be over 50 years old or with a disability, supporting them to volunteer and engage, and assessing their wellbeing over a 12-month period using the NHS Choices Wellbeing Self-assessment. This tool was utilized before each participant started volunteering, after 3 months of volunteering and finally at the end of the pilot.
Volunteering increases wellbeing
The results showed that 80% of those who took the NHS wellbeing test after 3 months of volunteering stated an increase in their wellbeing and happiness. In some cases, this effect was significant. At the end of the project, final assessment showed a similarly high impact of volunteering, with 70% showing increased wellbeing and happiness from their baseline (pre-volunteering) test.
Incidentally, 3 of the participants managed to secure employment before the end of the pilot and therefore were unable to continue their volunteering role. While this meant we were unable to obtain final scores from these participants, it clearly demonstrates another huge advantage to volunteering, and as previous research (e.g. this and this) shows, employment has its own positive effects on wellbeing!
We shared our findings from the pilot with local charities at our recent volunteering forum to gather anecdotal evidence of changes they had noticed in their own volunteers that could be incorporated into the final report.
In volunteers’ own words
“The volunteering has been an absolute life saver in getting myself to this point in my life and I would recommend it to anyone who is isolated or depressed as it makes you feel that you are valued and that you have something to offer.”
“You don’t have to stop because you are old, you can still carry on and share your abilities and knowledge with others and learn from others and things around you.”