Some observational evidence points to around a 20 per cent reduction in mortality among volunteers compared to non-volunteers in cohort studies. Volunteers also reported lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being Go on, volunteer -- it could be good for you!It may well be that this is capturing essentially the same thing as the church-going data is picking up: part of the ethos of church-going is about giving ones time and effort, without financial payment, for the common good. Of course there are other issues and some of these relate to the happiness and stress-reduction dimensions of life. And, most importantly, it is well to note a corelation, it is another thing to produce a convincing reason for it which seems to have explanatory power and is productive of testable hypotheses.
More research is needed to unpack the theoretical mechanisms by which volunteers may accrue different health benefitsAnd, of course; "Volunteer too much, and the habit can become a burden, bringing problems of its own." -as some of us who have been involved in church leadership are only too aware; sometimes people have to be protected from their own enthusiasm, guilt-drivers and indeed interpersonal difficulties with co-volunteers. Indeed, I'd like to see a study that helps to open out the issues related to guilt-driven volunteering as opposed to more freely-offered efforts, for example. I hove the sense that running a church or other organisation on guilt is bad for people all round in the longer term.
And part of the issue in volunteering is the type of people who typically do it: is the study actually measuring a population who would be better off even if they didn't volunteer, because of other factors?
... volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause. It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place. The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them.My suspcion is that maybe church populations are more diverse and that if the church-going benefits are related to the volunteering benefits (as I suspect they are), then that may be evidence that it is to do with volunteering rather than pre-existing cultural or biological factors. But we'll see ...