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People who volunteer & donate more likely to feel optimistic, research indicates

A woman in beige dungaree shorts waters vegetables in a garden. By Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

Ahead of next week’s World Mental Health Awareness Week, research commissioned by Benefact Group and conducted by the Centre of Economics and Business Research, claims to have found a direct link between charitable giving and positive mental health outcomes.

The Value of Giving 2022 Report shows that people who donate and volunteer view their own lives more positively, with a knock-on effect on mental health. More on the report’s findings here

Positive impact of giving & volunteering

The study found that a third of adults who donate feel optimistic about the future, compared to 28% of those who don’t. Similarly, three quarters of donors say they feel close to others, compared to 65% of non-donors.


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Volunteers are more optimistic about the future, with 45% reporting this emotion compared to 28% of those who don’t volunteer. The study also suggests that those who volunteer feel more relaxed, with 58% of volunteers reporting this emotion compared to 48% of those who don’t volunteer. Seven-in-ten (71%) volunteers say they feel useful, compared to two-thirds (66%) of non-volunteers.

People that both donate and volunteer report more positive emotions than those who do neither and are 1.7 times more likely to feel optimistic about the future. This is followed by feeling close to others, which is felt by 75% of those who donate and volunteer, compared to the 65% among those who do neither.

Life satisfaction

The research also found that volunteering for nine hours provides the same increase in life satisfaction as earning an additional £1,000 per month. It also says that giving £231 to charitable causes in a 12-month period increases satisfaction by a similar level.

Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive of Benefact Group, said: 

“Giving and volunteering are crucial to civic society. The findings show us that being charitable is not only good for society, but also those who take part. The value of charitable acts is hidden in economic terms, as it previously has not been adequately measured. Our Value of Giving report offers first-of-its-kind analysis on how the charity sector significantly contributes to the wider economy, while outlining how donating and volunteering also bring benefits to our mental wellbeing. The cost-of-living crisis is understandably having an impact on people’s ability to give. But we know that there is an increasing appetite to volunteer time, and our report shows what we intuitively know, that volunteering time benefits all parties in the chain.


“Many companies give time and money generously, but we believe the corporate sector can play a more influential role in supporting the charity sector. We believe the combined effort of businesses collectively donating a proportion of profits and empowering staff to volunteer can be a powerful force in society.”

Most of the empirical research in the report is based on analysis of the UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS). This survey tracks a large sample of adults (more than 34,000) over time and includes questions on voluntary work and donations.