Middle-aged and elderly people can boost their mental well-being by volunteering, a new study suggests.
But those under 40 are less likely to reap similar benefits, the authors found.
Previous research has linked volunteering to mental well-being but it is the first time that researchers have examined whether it is beneficial to different age groups.
The new study, published in the journal BMJ Open, examined data from 5,000 households across the UK. Questions on volunteering were asked on numerous occasions between 1996 and 2008.
Participants were also asked about their general health and well-being.
The authors, from the universities of Southampton and Birmingham, found that, when not considering age, those who engaged in volunteering regularly appeared to experience higher levels of mental well-being than those who never volunteered.
But when they looked into volunteering across different age groups they discovered the association between volunteering and well-being only became apparent above the age of 40 years and continuing up to old age.
"The association between volunteering and mental well-being varies at different points in the life course," the authors wrote.
"These findings argue for more efforts to involve middle-aged people to older people in volunteering-related activities.
"Volunteering action might provide those groups with greater opportunities for beneficial activities and social contacts, which in turn may have protective effects on health status."
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