Want to be happier, improve your health, boost your  test scores, and even lower crime in your neighborhood? Become a volunteer.

A British survey shows that communities with high levels of volunteerism tend to have healthier residents, better academic test scores, and lower crime rates than those that don’t.

The study, funded by England ‘s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), was conducted by Paul Whiteley, a professor of government at the University of Essex .

“It seems that when we focus on the needs of others, we may also reap benefits ourselves,” says Whiteley in a news release.

Whiteley examined a variety of sources, particularly the ESRC Democracy & Participation research program, which ran from 1998-2003. Whiteley is the program’s director.

Perks of Volunteering

Here are some highlights on volunteerism from Whiteley’s report:

More people had better health in communities with high levels of volunteerism.

More people in communities with strong volunteerism said they’re “very satisfied” with their lives.

Communities with lots of volunteer activity had fewer burglaries.

Students in areas with high levels of volunteerism performed better academically.

“Volunteer activity in the community is associated with better health, lower crime, improved education performance, and greater life satisfaction,” says Whiteley.

Benefits for All

The positive effects of volunteerism were open to everyone, regardless of an area’s wealth.

“A relatively poor community with lots of voluntary activity can do better in relation to health, crime, and education than a relatively affluent community which lacks such activity,” says Whiteley in the news release.

SOURCES: Whiteley, P. “Civic Renewal and Participation in Britain .” News release, Economic and Social Research Council.