Teens who volunteer are healthier, aim higher in education, study finds
The researchers recommend that community groups and schools increase opportunities for civic engagement among teens



High school teens who volunteer, take part in community aid groups, and join school or other clubs are healthier and more likely to aspire to attending college, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
“Youth are an asset and we need to provide opportunities so they can contribute to the larger good by participating in civic life,” said Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, which supported the study.
The study found that regardless of race or family income, one in three teens have a high level of civic efficacy, defined as caring about issues, feeling connected to others who are engaged in civic activities, and feeling as if they can make a difference. The survey showed that teens with high levels of civic efficacy are more likely to say they are in “very good” or “excellent” health, compared to those with low civic efficacy, 76 percent to 49 percent, respectively.
The latter group of teens is more likely to miss school for health reasons than the first group, 29 percent vs. 16 percent. Teens who participate in an organization that strives to make a difference are more likely to say they will attend college, 72 percent to 50 percent.
“Our research showed teens who don’t participate in these types of community activities say they aren’t as healthy and are less likely to see college in their future," said Susan Babey, research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and lead author of the report.
Authors of the study recommend that community groups and schools increase opportunities for civic engagement among teens by expanding and supporting programs that help youth improve their communities; encourage participation in civic engagement at middle and high school levels, particularly in low-income areas and communities of color; and actively seek out, engage and welcome youth who are not traditionally included in community and school civic activities.
“In many cases, it’s not that teens lack interest in community and political issues,” said Joelle Wolstein, center research scientist and co-author of the study. “What they may lack is the means and opportunity to participate.”
Source: University of California, Los Angeles: ucla.edu