Volunteering just once a week can elicit the same ‘high’ as exercise, research suggests.
Those who give their time to others found it had an equivalent mental health boost as going for a run.
Research commissioned by the Royal Voluntary Service found volunteering boosts self-confidence, has a positive impact on mental health and teaches new skills.
They polled 1,000 members and found two-thirds (65 per cent) of those who volunteered said they felt happier while almost a third (31 per cent) said it reduced stress levels.
The findings come as the charity launched a recruitment drive to encourage younger people to sign up.
Roles with the RVS – which works with the Mail’s charity partner Helpforce – include helping out at lunch clubs and befriending dementia patients in the community. The plea for recruits follows the Mail’s Hospital Helpforce campaign in December which saw 33,000 readers pledge their time.
Evidence suggests teenagers and young adults now are at greater risk of mental health problems than previous generations. Experts say the mental health benefits that come from volunteering could combat such problems.
Tayla Falconer, 22, who volunteers for RVS’s Doncaster Dementia Family Support Service, said: ‘It has given me lots of confidence. Before I started, I was very timid and shy – now I’m a burst of energy and a much better person for it.’