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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2000 Sep;55(5):S308-18.

Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course.

Author information

1
Department of Sociology, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858, USA. vanwilligenm@mail.edu.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Studies often fail to adequately test the causal relationship between volunteering and well-being. Yet the media and empirical research have focused attention on the impact of volunteering on the well-being of elderly persons. This study addresses two questions: First, does volunteering improve the psychological and physical well-being of elderly persons? Second, do elderly volunteers experience different benefits than younger adults?

METHODS:

Using nationally representative panel data, I assessed the long-term impact of volunteering on the life satisfaction and perceived health of persons aged 60 and over. I then compared ordinary least squares regression results for seniors with those for younger adults.

RESULTS:

I found that older volunteers experienced greater increases in life satisfaction over time as a result of their volunteer hours than did younger adult volunteers, especially at high rates of volunteering. Older adults experienced greater positive changes in their perceived health than did younger adult volunteers.

DISCUSSION:

The type of volunteer work in which older and younger adults engage may be part of the reason for these differential effects. But the context in which older and younger adults volunteer and the meaning of their voluntarism are more likely explanations. Researchers should take into account volunteer commitment when studying volunteering's effect on well-being, not simply volunteer role.

PMID:
10985302
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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