By Christine S. Moyer
At a time when financial hardships and unemployment are causing stress among many Americans, primary care physicians should discuss with patients the physical and mental health benefits of volunteering, says the author of a recent report.
The report, which was published in the December 2011 issue of The International Journal of Person Centered Medicine, found that people who give back to others lead more happy and healthy lives than those who do not volunteer.
“People in general are happier and healthier, and may even live a little longer, when they’re contributing” to their community or an organization they are passionate about, said study author Stephen G. Post, PhD. He is director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. “The research on the benefits of giving is extremely powerful, to the point that suggests health care professionals should consider recommending such activities to patients.”
Post encourages primary care physicians to ask patients 12 and older during office visits if they volunteer in their communities. For those who do not volunteer, doctors should suggest they consider doing so, he said.