Key Words: health; heart; volunteering
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Giving back through volunteering is good for your heart, even at a young age, according to a study published Monday in the U.S. journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers split 106 Grade 10 students from an urban, inner- city Vancouver high school into two groups -- a group that volunteered regularly for 10 weeks and a group that was wait- listed for volunteer activities. The researchers measured the students' body mass index (BMI), inflammation and cholesterol levels before and after the study. They also assessed the students ' self-esteem, mental health, mood, and empathy.
The volunteer group of students spent one hour per week working with elementary school children in after-school programs in their neighborhood. After 10 weeks they had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol and lower BMIs than the students who were wait- listed.
"The volunteers who reported the greatest increases in empathy, altruistic behavior and mental health were the ones who also saw the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular health," says Hannah Schreier, author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of mortality in Canada and the United States. The first signs of the disease can begin to appear during adolescence. Previous studies show that psychosocial factors, such as stress, depression and well-being, play a role in the disease.
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