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Kids who volunteer have better mental health outcomes a longitudinal study of Australian children has found. Last month findings were released that showed the odds of a child suffering poor mental health were reduced by nearly 28 per cent if they volunteered before the age of 13.

The data is from Growing Up in Australia which has been following the development of 10,000 children since 2003. The study has a multi-disciplinary base, and examines a broad range of research questions about development and wellbeing over children over time in relation to topics such as parenting, family, peers, education, child care and health. Researchers released findings on what effect cultivating and promoting “prosocial” behaviours and volunteering had on mental health.

Key Findings of Prosocial Behaviour Research

 1. During the pre-adolescent years (4–12 years) children increasingly display prosocial behaviours.

 2. After an initial decline in adolescence (at around 13 years), young people’s prosocial behaviours remain low and stable (between 14–17 years).

 3. The level of poor mental health symptoms increases each year of development, with a substantial increase between the ages of 13 and 17.

 4. During the childhood years (4–12 years), prosocial behaviours are associated with up to a 11% reduction in poor emotional symptoms.

5. During the adolescent years (13–17 years), engaging in volunteering reduces the likelihood of poor mental health by 28%.

Parents who want to help bolster their teens mental wellbeing should encourage volunteering and other prosocial behaviours.

Places for Youth Volunteering

  • Community sports clubs. There are many opportunities for teens to volunteer in community sports clubs such as: surf life saving, coaching, umpiring or helping to serve food.
  • Nursing Homes
  • Libraries
  • Duke of Edinburgh Award
  • Charities. There are a vast number of charitable organisations needing volunteers. Establish which area your teen would be most enthusiastic about helping in, such as Environment & Conservation, Health or Arts & Culture. There are a number of great websites to help such as: Volunteering Australia, GoVolunteer and UN Youth Australia

Improved Job Prospects

Teenagers who volunteer also improve their ability to get a job. This is because of the various skills that volunteering helps to develop. Volunteering increases self confidence, leadership skills, communication skills, reliability, respectfulness and helps teens to develop a broader perspective.