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Children who do volunteer work have better physical, emotional health: study

By ANI BUREAUS Published Jun 12, 2023 10:19 am

A recent study in a university in Texas found that children who volunteer have better physical and emotional health.

Researchers from the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health found that youths who had volunteered in the past year were in better physical health, had a more positive outlook on life, and were less likely to have anxiety, depression, or behavioral problems compared to their peers who did not volunteer.

"These study results bring optimism that youth volunteering could be a win-win, where youth are serving society to their own benefit," said lead researcher Kevin Lanza. "Further, youths may be joined by household members and others while volunteering, strengthening social bonds while building community."

The study was published in the open-access journal JAMA Network.

Two past studies with small sample sizes have shown that teen volunteers may be in better health, and more engaged at school, than their peers. But Lanza said the effect of volunteering on youths remained largely unknown.

Lanza's team analyzed parent-reported data from a long-running national survey that tracked the health and well-being of nearly 52,000 Americans aged 6 to 17, from 2019 to 2020. Of those respondents, a third of children and over half of teens had done volunteer work in the past year.

Parents whose kids volunteered were 33% more likely to say their child was in "very good" to "excellent" health, compared to parents whose kids did not volunteer. Those parents were also between 18% and 35% less likely to say their child had battled depression or anxiety, or had behavioral problems, in the past year.

Moreover, children and teens who did volunteer work were 66% more likely to be "flourishing," defined based on how parents answered questions about their kids' curiosity, willingness to complete tasks, and ability to stay calm when faced with challenges.

One limitation of the study is potential response bias from parent-reported data.

Furthermore, the study results do not answer the question of whether kids who were already healthy and flourishing were more likely to volunteer, researchers said. (ANI)

(Editor's Note: Minor changes were made in this article.)