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February 13, 2009

Voluntourism and Your Health

by Sara Tucker

Voluntourism

From the Aggregator's "good news" file: "New research from the Mayo Clinic shows that people who volunteer have lower rates of heart disease and live longer," celebrity doc Sanjay Gupta reported last month, right around the time our new prez was urging us all to lend a helping hand in honor of MLK. "People who volunteer are overall more physically and mentally fit than those who don't," the doctor added, citing "previous studies."

Studies like the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey of 30,000 American households, which found that volunteers were 42 percent more likely to say they were "very happy" about their lives than nonvolunteers. The results were reported in this New York Sun editorial.

And studies like this one, which found that "money can buy happiness as long as it is spent on other people or on pro-social causes."

Dr. Gupta's prescription for physical and mental fitness includes "40 to 100 hours a year" of volunteer work, an amount that "breaks down to just a few hours a week."

Or a few days' worth of vacation time per year? Travelers, take note.

Further reading:
* Travelers for a Healthy World
* Volunteering in America (Web site of the Corporation for National and Community Service)
* What the travel industry should do about giving back
* Make a Difference: Travel right, do good
* The Aggregator: News of the week in links

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