Moving America Forward

Is There a Connection Between Community Service and Happiness?

August 18, 2014
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Is There a Connection Between Community Service and Happiness?
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A new study finds those who give back may have unlocked the key to joyful living.

It’s no secret that giving back feels good, but a new study contends that perhaps it may be vital to living a happier life — but only if you’re being recognized for your efforts.

Gallup found that individuals who receive recognition for their community service report better well-being scores than those whose good deeds go unnoticed. Volunteers receiving praise scored an average Well-Being Index score of 70 out of 100 in contrast of the average score of 58.5 of those who did not.

But the pattern doesn’t stop there. Age and income have long been associated with higher levels of well-being, and Gallup found that even among affluent and older Americans, community service is a constant among happier people.

U.S. citizens who make less than $36,000 but are recognized for community service reported a higher score than wealthier individuals making more than $90,000 but haven’t received recognition for community service, 67.2 and  62.6, respectively.

Elderly individuals also typically score higher on the Well-Being Index. Older Americans, ages 65 and up who identified as participating in community service efforts, reported the highest scores of happiness. However, younger Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 — who’ve been given a shout-out for their volunteer efforts — received the second highest score of well-being, outperforming older age groups.

The survey also discovered a link between community service and reduced levels of stress. Only around 34 percent of respondents who are recognized for giving back said they experience stress in contrast to 42 percent of those who are not. And only 25 percent of active volunteers reported experiencing worry compared to 32 percent of those who are not involved or recognized for their efforts.

But perhaps more interestingly, around two-thirds of respondents contend they have not received recognition for community service, which underscores a greater need to illuminate the social good going on across the country.

Giving back feels great, and it’s time to start promoting that message.

MORE: If You’re Happy And You Know it, You Probably Participate in Arts

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