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Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Date:5/8/2009

Altruistic activities could cut the death risk in half, study finds,,,,

FRIDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- Volunteering your time doesn't just help others; it turns out, it probably benefits your health, too.

Retirees over 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying compared to their non-volunteering peers, according to a study presented May 2 at the American Geriatrics Society annual meeting, in Chicago.

"We found that volunteering remains a powerful predictor of decreased mortality among current U.S. retirees, even after extensive adjustment for possible confounding factors," wrote the study's authors.

Although previous research has already shown an improvement in mortality rates among people who volunteer, the authors noted that past research has focused on people born before 1920, and that those studies haven't adjusted for all of the potential variables, such as socioeconomic status or chronic health conditions. One argument that people have made is that older people who are volunteering are likely healthier than those who choose not to volunteer, and that's one of the many possible confounding factors the current study tried to address.

"Our research was building on what other people have previously done. A concern with past studies is that volunteers may be healthier to begin with. We thought we could account for this and other factors that could confound the relationship, and even after we examined those other factors, volunteers still had lower mortality," said the study's lead author, Dr. Sei Lee, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

However, Lee pointed out that this study's findings are preliminary and said his research is ongoing.

The study included 6,360 retired people over 65 years of age who were enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in 2002. This study
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