The Contribution of Volunteering to Scotland’s Health & Wellbeing
To understand the contribution of volunteering to Scotland’s health and wellbeing we have undertaken a critical appraisal of the evidence.
Volunteer Scotland’s research on Volunteering, Health and Wellbeing: What does the evidence tell us? presented convincing evidence on the merits of volunteering for volunteers. However, these findings were based on UK and international evidence and were not Scotland-specific. This sequel report focuses on health and wellbeing evidence for Scotland and answers four key questions:
- What is the current and projected state of people’s health and wellbeing in Scotland?
- What are the challenges facing our health and wellbeing?
- What are the opportunities for volunteering to help address these challenges?
- What are the priorities for volunteering in helping to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland?
State of our health and wellbeing – the report highlights the major challenges facing our society in terms of demographic change, mental and physical health, social isolation and loneliness, and poorly connected and engaged communities.
Volunteering’s extraordinary contribution – hard evidence is presented on the outstanding contribution of volunteering in helping to address Scotland’s health and wellbeing challenges, which it achieves through:
- Improving the health and wellbeing of our 1.4 million volunteers
- Supporting activities and sectors which foster health and wellbeing such as sport and physical activities
- Supporting Scotland’s health and social care sector through the contribution of 200,000 volunteers.
How we can enhance this contribution – ten recommendations for both policy makers and practitioners have been put forward, including:
- How volunteering must accommodate the projected demographic change over the next 20 years
- Understanding how the health and wellbeing benefits from volunteering vary by role, age, sector and geography
- The importance of targeting support for the disadvantaged and excluded in society
- Good practice guidance for engaging and supporting volunteers to optimise health and wellbeing benefits – View here
- The role of ‘influencers’ in providing leadership in policy and practice to achieve a healthier and happier Scotland – View here
These findings and recommendations highlight how volunteering can improve its ‘reach’ and impact in improving mental and physical health, reducing social isolation and loneliness and contributing to more engaged communities. These are all top policy priorities in the Scottish Government’s policy agenda. However, it is also important to recognise the significant barriers to engaging the disadvantaged and most excluded in society, where we know the health and wellbeing benefits from volunteering are so important.
By drawing upon the report’s findings and adopting a collaborative approach as described in ‘Volunteer for All: Our National Framework’ Volunteer Scotland believes that these barriers can be addressed to help optimise the contribution of volunteering to Scotland’s health and wellbeing.