A new study led by Dr Rachel Casiday from the University of Wales Lampeter has revealed that volunteering has a positive impact on health and could increase longevity.
The six-month study systematically reviewed 87 other studies including 15 controlled trials and found that volunteering had a positive effect on people's self-esteem and can beat depression, stress and pain.
The study, commissioned by the charity "Volunteering England", also found that those who do voluntary work or are helped by volunteers also enjoy a better quality of life and adopt healthier lifestyles, such as an improved diet and a higher level of physical activity.
Other positive impacts on health service users include social support and interaction, disease management, compliance with treatment and a reduced number of hospital visits.
Casiday's study found that different types of voluntary work had different health impacts.
"Church-related volunteering had a bigger impact on depression than secular volunteering, and volunteers working on environmental projects were likely to be physically fitter."
Volunteers caring for older people tended to be less satisfied than paid employees.