How Volunteering Benefits Mental Health


How volunteering benefits mental health

In a time where we are all hearing the dreadful statistics on increased mental health issues and suicide rates from COVID-19 led anxiety,a new study confirms what many suspected… that volunteering not only helps the community, but also the volunteer’s mental health.

The peer reviewed The Journal of Happiness Studies which looks at the scientific understanding of subjective well-being published a study into the volunteering habits, mental health, and distress function of 70,000 research participants in the United Kingdom. The study was conducted over an 18 year period. It concluded that people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. It also found the more regular the volunteering (of at least once a month), volunteers reported better mental health than others in the sample set, and more satisfied with their lives. Jorgia White from The Pyjama Foundation agrees.

Ms White said “Our volunteers share so many amazing experiences and moments with their Pyjama Children, many describing it as the best part of their week”.

Volunteers can contribute to a charity through providing their skills with an unpaid or pro-bono arrangement by sharing their expertise on a Board, or help at a grass root level. The Pyjama Foundation said they have a Love of Learning Program, where volunteers are called ‘Pyjama Angels’. “Pyjama Angels are recruited, screened, trained and then matched with a child in care and spend time with them once a week, focusing on learning-based activities.Pyjama Angels read books aloud with their child, play educational games and help children with their homework. Most importantly, the volunteers give foster children a chance to reach their life potential, despite a fragile start” they said.

Volunteers experience a number of factors that contribute to their mental well-being. The authors of the research discovered 3 interesting facts;

1.      People that help others experience a “warm glow”of satisfaction.

2.      Volunteering helps people stay connected to one another, especially for older adults in retirement.

3.      Volunteering builds opportunities and skills –especially in younger adults. These include opportunities for leadership,networking, and other professional skills in the 16-24 and 55-74 age brackets.

The Bonus

Researchers tried to make the benefits of volunteering more tangible, and compared it to the effects on people’s income. They discovered that if someone earned an average wage, volunteering was “worth” approximately$1,100. Just like getting a $1,100 bonus.

Pyjama Angel Steph said, “I was recently privileged to attend my cherub's school awards assembly, where she was awarded most improved student in the upper school. For this her name was engraved on a perpetual trophy, and she received a set of books. I was so pleased for her as I have noticed improvements in her reading, writing and spelling myself this year which is so exciting. Nothing makes me happier than her asking "did I spell it right?" And "Really?" When I confirm that she did. The excitement on her face is a joy to see.”

Taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis

Given the findings of the study, make sure your organisation continues to reach out to your community on volunteers. Not only will you be continuing the mission of your organisation, but also you’ll be helping the mental well-being of some of your greatest advocates.

Grace, a foster child who has benefited from The Pyjama Foundation’s program added, “From as early as I can remember my Pyjama Angel,Barbara Brown, has been a grandmother figure and has shown me nothing but love and happiness.”

Grace grew up in a family of 7 siblings, and said, “this made it difficult to receive one-on-one care as often as desired. Each week,Barb put time aside from her own family and friends to dedicate a couple hours just to me. Looking back now, these few hours meant much more than just a visit. These hours made me feel loved, special and as though I deserved to learn new things and do just as well as my other classmates. Barb shaped me academically and, as a person.”

Volunteering remains a vital component of our community.It’s important to not only look at the impact on who you help, but also to recognise and share what this means for your army of volunteers.


About The Pyjama Foundation

The Pyjama Foundation provide children in foster care the opportunity to change the direction of their lives with learning, life skills and confidence. Children in care have the lowest education outcomes nationally.By improving their learning skills, The Pyjama Foundation is making a positive,life-long impact. View The Pyjama Foundation’s details here.

About The Impact Suite

The Impact Suite is a social enterprise committed to helping Australia’s charities and not-for-profit organisations be more effective and sustainable. We do this by actively engaging with over 36,000 of these organisations on a weekly basis with governance and social impact related knowledge through our digital platform. Our award winning proprietary Social Impact Rating is used by stakeholders and donors to identify well governed and impact driven organisations that are sustainable and effective.