Eastbourne has a strong volunteering heritage – the 3VA is an umbrella organization for the many and diverse charities and groups in East Sussex - 3VA supports the recruitment, support and training of volunteers and contributes millions of pounds each year into the economy through volunteer work.
One aspect of this research can be described as ‘implementation science’ – dissemination of existing research into the health effects of volunteering, which is extensive. A systematic review of the literature has revealed how volunteering can improve physical health by active participation, it can even be seen as a ‘cure’ for depression. Volunteering has been shown to widen social relationships and interpersonal connections, facilitating meaningful purpose in life.
Volunteering might thus become ‘on prescription’ but more research into the motives and activities of local volunteers needs to be carried out.
A detailed examination of current literature revealed strong evidence that volunteering improves physical and enhances mental health, reduces social isolation and improves social networks.
The review also identified the need to fully explain more precisely the core elements of what it is about volunteering that improves health. The who, why and where of volunteering needs to be more deeply understood through a major survey of local volunteers, qualitative interviews, and quantitative measures of outcomes such as physical activity levels and depression scales.
Professor Gaynor Sadlo
Ms Lisa Hodgson
Initial outputs have been a Literature review – Volunteering enhances health information booklet
Presentation of current literature and evidence