Three-quarters of volunteers say volunteering has made them feel physically healthier and lowered their stress levels, according to a new study released by UnitedHealthGroup and the Optum Institute. The study also illustrates that employers benefit from employees who volunteer in terms of better employee health and in professional skills development that employees use in the workplace.

Volunteers are also more engaged in their health than nonvolunteers, with 80% of the people who've volunteered in the past 12 months saying they feel they have control over their health.

Moreover, about one-quarter of the people who've volunteered in the past month say that volunteering has helped them to manage a chronic illness. Ninety-four percent of those who've volunteered in the past year, meanwhile, say doing so has helped improve their mood.

"The one that's really interesting when looking at volunteers compared to the population in general is that volunteers are more knowledgeable than nonvolunteers about their health and chronic conditions and, in fact, 58% of volunteers say they're very knowledgeable about their health and chronic conditions, compared to 50% of all U.S. adults," says Kate Rubin, vice president of social responsibility with UnitedHealth Group. "And we know, in the health and wellness industry, when somebody's knowledgeable about their health, they take way better care of themselves, that they adhere to what they need to do both on the wellness side and in managing their chronic conditions."

Volunteering can also help employees manage stress. Among those who've volunteered in the past 12 months, 78% say it has lowered their stress levels. Moreover, volunteers are more likely than U.S. adults overall to report that they felt calm and peaceful most of the time, and that they had a lot of energy most of the time, over the past four weeks.

In addition to physical and mental health benefits, employees who volunteer say doing so has helped them learn valuable business skills. Sixty-four percent of employees who currently volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues has strengthened their relationships.

"We know the lone wolf isn't the kind of person that makes it in today's world," says Rubin. "Working on a volunteering [project] helps build stronger relationships with colleagues and helps build that collaboration muscle."

Three-quarters of people who say that volunteering helped their career report that volunteering has helped them refine existing professional skills and build new ones.

"There's a special kind of volunteering now, called skills-based volunteering and we're doing more of that," says Rubin.

Over half (56%) of new volunteers felt that volunteering would help their career, and 49% of people new to volunteering said that volunteering has helped with their career in the paid job market.

The findings are based on a national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive.

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