Widowed seniors can lessen feelings of loneliness by volunteering about two hours per week, according to a study conducted at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Loneliness is a significant public health concern – particularly in older adults who have lost a spouse – and is associated with a number of physical and mental health problems, as well as an increased risk of death.
This research involved 5,882 married adults, 51 and older, who completed the Health and Retirement Study, which collected information about family, health, and volunteerism. The researchers used 2006 to 2014 data on individuals who remained married or became widowed to determine whether volunteering could reduce feelings of loneliness from losing a spouse. Participants chose from three categories related to volunteerism: 1 to 99 volunteer hours per year, 100 to 199 hours, or more than 200 hours.
According to the researchers, feelings of loneliness were significantly higher in widows compared to those who stay married. But volunteering two or more hours per week decreased loneliness to levels similar to those in married people volunteering two or more hours a week. This suggests that volunteerism can alleviate loneliness in seniors who have recently been widowed.