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The Giver's Glow: How Volunteering Can Improve Your Health 

This interview is from the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. You can listen to the full interview below, on iTunes or Google Podcasts.

Is giving really receiving in disguise? According to Dr. Stephen Post, best-selling author of “Why Good Things Happen To Good People,” that’s usually the case. He says we’re biologically hard-wired to flourish when we’re contributing to the community, and the research backs him up. Join us as Dr. Post discusses the health benefits of giving, how much is too much, and why the rules are different for people in caring professions.

Here’s an excerpt from our interview with Dr. Post:

What are some of the most prominent findings you have come across while you’re studying this, if you had to just summarize them?

The best way to get to that is to look at this nation survey I consulted with United Health on. They wanted to know “okay, is this good to be good stuff for real,” right? … It was early 2010, and they surveyed 5,000 adult Americans, and they asked them real simple “Did you volunteer in 2009?”

About 41% of people volunteered. How much were they volunteering? Only about 100 hours per year, on average. So if you break it down, call it a couple of hours a week.

And what were they saying? … 96% said it made them feel happier. There’s been a lot of literature on “The Helper’s High” and this “Giver’s Glow,” how that happens, what’s going on neurologically… so that’s not surprising. 77% said that it makes them feel less stressed… about the same number said it makes them feel more resilient. And that’s important.


I mean it’s really quite amazing. 68% say they feel more physically robust and healthier. I mean, if you could put this in a pill and sell it, you’d be a billionaire overnight. But you don’t need to because it lies within, based on certain kinds of activities.

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This isn’t just a linear equation, right? You can’t just keep getting more and more of these benefits by increasing your volunteer time to the point of exhaustion… how does that work, and where does it kind of "level out"?

Yeah it does level out, it’s curvilinear. People in this field of health and volunteerism use the expression “shift effect.” What they say, in general, is that what you need is a couple of hours a week to get these benefits. It’s a little different for younger folks in the studies on adolescents… for them it’s literally just an hour a week… But in general, it’s a threshhold effect - so it’s a few hours a week.

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