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Two New Reasons to Volunteer

Two new research studies underscore the critical role that volunteering plays in improving lives…of the volunteers themselves.

According to a study from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, teenagers who participate in volunteer activities on their own may be less likely to commit crimes as adults. In fact, the study found that teenagers who volunteer had 31% fewer arrests and fewer convictions then those who do not volunteer, and the trend continues as they grew older. Adolescents who are required to volunteer also have fewer arrests and convictions as adults than those who did not volunteer in their youth. Why is this? The researchers suggest that as teens engage in self-empowering activities like volunteering, they may develop a sense of moral and social responsibility that would deter criminal activity.

Volunteers also gain the upper hand in the job market. According to research commissioned by Oxfam, which relies on volunteers to staff its shops, 80% of employers are more likely to hire an applicant with volunteer experience. It turns out that bosses think volunteers have better social skills and work harder than other job applicants.

Earlier studies showed that volunteering is good for physical, mental and emotional health. Now we know that helping teens get involved in giving, leads to other positive results in their adulthood. United Way of Greater St. Louis engages local teens in United Way Teen to learn about and respond to issues in their community. Countless other United Ways and youth organizations offer similar opportunities.

What works in your area? How do kids – and adults -- in your community improve their own lives by volunteering? Share your tips and success stories here.