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Volunteering Isn't Actually Making You Happy

Time to admit it—clocking all those hours at the nursing home just turns you into a resentful dick.

VICE Staff

VICE Staff

Go to a therapist? They'll suggest volunteering. Want to add meaning to your life? Why not try volunteering? Your ex says you're a narcissistic asshole incapable of feeling? Volunteering! Dragging yourself down to the nearest animal shelter to scrape some cat shit from a cage is the oldest trick in the book for improving your mental health and raising your happiness. Except maybe, after all that, it's not.

A new study suggests that visiting a nursing home isn't benefiting the person you really wanted it to: you.

Researchers at the University of Southampton in England looked at data from the British Household Panel Survey, which sampled adults living in 5,000 households every year from 1991 to 2008. The questionnaires measured mental health and emotional wellbeing and compared it to how often people volunteered.

They found that those who volunteered regularly scored an average of six percent higher on wellbeing tests—great news, right? But when they analyzed the data, found that volunteering had no impact at all for young people. The results were skewed because from the age of 40, mental health and wellbeing improved significantly for those volunteering, peaking at the age of 76 to 80, when there was 12 percent boost to mental health.

If this is true, plenty of do-gooders right now are silently admitting to themselves that volunteering has done nothing but add more stress to their week. The researchers speculated that one reason for these results may be that volunteering when you're young may just be seen as another chore or obligation. But when you're older, it becomes more personal or meaningful. They suggest that it may be beneficial to those who have been made redundant or have retired and have a more isolated life.

Go on then, call up the old folks home. Tell them you're not coming this week, and then resign yourself to being a narcissistic asshole until you're in your 40s at least.

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Keep smiling! You're getting nothing from this labour! Photo via Wiki