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6th January 2020

Volunteering is helping Scotland to be happier and healthier

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has over 1,700 volunteers who make their time matter. There are approximately 150 volunteer roles with new roles added frequently. These volunteers often work in roles supporting the health and wellbeing of our service users but have you ever stopped to think about the contribution they make to their own health and wellbeing as well as those around them?

Research has shown that volunteering improves mental health, physical health, reduces social isolation and loneliness and improves life expectancy.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland launched our Health Defence Scotland in June 2019. It is helping support people to live healthier lives. We have a team of volunteers who are supporting our programme.

Being overweight and inactive is now the norm in Scotland. Two -thirds ( 65%) of adults are now overweight, with almost one third (29%) obese. The six Public Health priorities for Scotland set out the future direction. A healthier future and Active Scotland Delivery Plan set out a framework to tackle these health issues. Given the seriousness of the health challenges facing our society, it is essential that we optimise the contribution from volunteering.

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has worked with Paths for All to support a Community Walk Leader volunteer role. Milo and Lesley from our Health Defence volunteering team lead a health walk in Glasgow each week. This not only increases their activity and exercise levels but also is supporting people living with our conditions to become more active.

In Scotland there are approximately 280,000 volunteers who help deliver sport and physical activities across Scotland’s 13,000 sports clubs. They undertake a range of activities from admin, to event organisation, coaching, refereeing and governance. They are supporting the health and wellbeing of 2.3 million adults in Scotland involved in physical activity or sport.

Our society is changing. The Scottish population is ageing. By 2041 there will be 428,000 more people aged 65 and over, but 160,000 fewer aged under 65.

This change in demographic will have challenges for inter-generational engagement across our society. Volunteering reduces social isolation and loneliness and again will benefit the health and wellbeing of our society.

The report illustrates the key role volunteering has to play in improving our health and wellbeing. Embedding volunteering at the heart of national and local policies needs clear leadership. We can all influence and play our part to support this change and ensure local and national policies embed volunteering.

Together, alongside CHSS and Health Defence Scotland, we can lead healthier lives. To find out more about volunteering with CHSS, contact volunteering@chss.org.uk

Written by Joanna Teece – Health Defence Lead, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland