Why older people like to volunteer

Less than 17 percent of the youngest age group volunteered (Getty)
Less than 17 percent of the youngest age group volunteered (Getty)

Older people are more likely to volunteer than young, but they're also more likely to personally benefit from doing so, new research suggests.

British researchers have found a link between volunteering and emotional and mental wellbeing, but only for people older than 40.

"Volunteering might provide those groups with greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status," the study, published in the British Medical Journal, reads.

"Volunteering may also provide a sense of purpose, particularly for those people who have lost their earnings, because regular volunteering helps maintain social networks, which are especially important for older people who are often socially isolated."

Researchers at the University of Southampton looked at data collected by the British Household Panel Survey over two decades, covering more than 66,000 responses. They found more than a quarter of people over 60 volunteered, and those who did rated better on mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Less than 17 percent of the youngest age group volunteered, and there was no correlation between doing so and mental health.

The researchers speculate young people might see volunteering as just "another obligation", but this view changes as they age.

"Social roles and family connections in early middle age may spur people to become involved in community activities, such as in their child's school."

Forty seemed to be the age where the personal benefits of volunteering start to kick in.