Existing evidence supports the notion that making a contribution to the community is good us and for older people in particular. Evidence come mainly from self-reported studies. But what if it actually has physical benefits like lowering inflammatory levels that are linked to NCDs?
This is just what Kim and Ferraro in The Gerontologist investigated – the link between productive activity and reduced inflammation in later life. In addition to the usual self-reported measures like feelings of value and depression, a biomarker of inflammation, C-reactive protein (CRP), was measured via a blood test.
Let’s back up a step or two so we can clarify terms here. A productive activity = a paid or unpaid action that makes a contribution to the life of the community. Examples are employment, volunteering, caregiving and other forms of social participation for the greater good.
CRP is linked to inflammation and modifiable risk factors such as smoking, obesity and physical activity. An increased CRP may be an indicator CVD and future health problems.
The results indicate that community engagement as measure by productive activity, especially volunteerism, is associated with a lower CRP.
Of course, there are all kinds of cautions attached to the finding: doesn’t apply to those in care facilities, overdoing it may be bad etc. However, the intriguing question remains: Are we hard wired to serve because it is actually good for our health?
Read more and decide for yourself.