This research has been published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
“It was encouraging to see how a social intervention to support members of the community also improved the health of adolescents,” Hannah Schreier, who conducted this research during her doctoral studies at UBC, said in a statement.
In this study, researchers divided 106 students from Grade 10 into two groups. One group was asked for volunteering for 10 weeks and the other group was wait-listed for volunteer activities such as one hour per week working in after-school programs with the children from elementary schools in the neighborhood. Researchers determine the students’ body mass index (BMI), inflammation and cholesterol levels before and after the study. They also measured the self-esteem, mental health, mood, and empathy – understanding of other’s feelings – of the students.
Researchers found that the students, who were in the group of volunteer activities, had decreased level of inflammation, cholesterol and BMIs than the students who were wait-listed.
“The volunteers who reported the greatest increases in empathy, altruistic behaviour and mental health were the ones who also saw the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular health,” Schreier, now a postdoctoral fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said in a statement.
Cardiovascular disease is among the leading causes of mortality in Canada and in the U.S. It has been found that psychosocial factors such as stress, depression and wellbeing play important role in the disease.
Hannah M. C. Schreier, PhD; Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl, PhD; Edith Chen, PhD. Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in AdolescentsA Randomized Controlled TrialVolunteering and Cardiovascular Disease Risks. JAMA Pediatrics,doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1100