Want the Secret to a Better and Longer Life?

Hint: You Have to Give to Receive

Feb 17, 2016, 11:28 ET from Stanford Center on Longevity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- People who volunteer are happier with their current lives, expect to live longer than the rest of the population and are more optimistic than the average American, according to a survey jointly undertaken by the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time.

"Volunteers belong to a unique cohort with a special outlook on life," said Peter D. Hart of Hart Research Associates who conducted the survey. "When viewing their lives and society in general, volunteers are more likely to see the glass as half-full than half-empty."

This survey was conducted to supplement the major Sightlines Project Report undertaken by the Stanford Center on Longevity that provides a report card on where Americans stand in preparing for healthy, long lives. The Sightlines Project Report found that the proportion of American adults involved in volunteerism has remained at just over one in four. Volunteerism is more common among women and the average number of hours volunteered increase with age, according to the Sightlines Project Report.

The Hart survey was conducted online with a cross section of 2,330 adults nationwide and found volunteers believe they will live longer and have better lives today.

  • 49% of volunteers are very happy with their lives, compared with 31% of non-volunteers. 
  • 58% of volunteers definitely want to live to 100, and, when they consider their family's health history, some 44% believe this will happen for them.
  • By a 13-point margin, volunteers are more likely to say this is one of the best times or at least a good time in their lives. 
  • When it comes to self-evaluating where they stand in our society, nearly two in five volunteers say they are the best off, compared with only a quarter of non-volunteers. 
  • Those who volunteer are more likely to describe life as an "old person" as being "fulfilling," "meaningful" and "fun," while the non-volunteers see life for "old people" as "relaxing," "lonely" and "boring."

Compared to non-volunteers, those who volunteer are more likely to say they already are doing well with their finances, getting exercise and eating healthy. They also are more focused on the present, whereas those who do not volunteer are more likely to say that they will work on improving their finances, job situation and start exercising more at some point in the future.

Social engagement with individuals and communities appears weaker than 15 years ago, according to The Sightlines Project, an extensive benchmark study by Stanford's Center on Longevity. This is especially true for 55- to 64-year-olds, who exhibit notably weaker relationships with spouses, partners, family, friends and neighbors. They also are involved less in their communities than their predecessors.  

"The vulnerability and disengagement in the group headed into retirement is a central concern and needs attention," said Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

Hart Research Associates conducted the survey on behalf of the Stanford Center on Longevity and Time and released the findings in conjunction with the Stanford Center on Longevity Sightlines Project: Seeing Our Way to Living Long, Living Well in 21st Century America.

For more coverage, please see Time's special issue on longevity, on newsstands now.


Survey Background:
The survey was conducted online November 20 to December 1, 2015, among a national sample of 2,330 adults aged 18 and over. The survey included an oversample of 300 Baby Boomers (adults born 1946 to 1964) for a total of 1,054; all age groups were weighted to their proper proportion in the total sample. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from a national panel of 2.4 million adults. Data for this survey have been weighted by age, race, sex, education, and region based on Census data to reflect known demographic characteristic of the U.S. adult population. This sample is an opt-in online sample and, as such, a credibility interval is used to index precision rather than a traditional margin of error. The credibility interval for this survey is 2.2 percentage points.

Media Contact:
Kristen McCaughan, kmccaughan@mcginnandcompany.com, 202-276-4961

SOURCE Stanford Center on Longevity