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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2004 Sep;59(5):S258-64.

Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adults' psychological well-being.

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Human Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin, 1430 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706, USA.



Guided by interactional role theory and employing a resilience framework, this study aimed to investigate whether formal volunteering protects older adults with more role-identity absences in major life domains (partner, employment, and parental) from poorer psychological well-being.


We used data from 373 participants, aged 65-74, in the 1995 National Survey of Midlife Development in the U.S. (MIDUS). Multivariate regression models estimated the effects of major role-identity absences, formal volunteering, and the interaction between major role-identity absences and volunteering on respondents' negative affect, positive affect, and purpose in life.


Participants with a greater number of major role-identity absences reported more negative affect, less positive affect, and less purpose in life. Being a formal volunteer was associated with more positive affect and moderated the negative effect of having more major role-identity absences on respondents' feelings of purpose in life.


Consistent with previous studies, findings indicate that having more role-identity absences constitutes a risk factor for poorer psychological well-being. Results further demonstrate that being a formal volunteer can protect older adults with a greater number of major role-identity absences from decreased levels of purpose in life. The findings suggest that associations between volunteering and psychological well-being might be contingent upon the volunteer's role-identity status and the dimension of psychological well-being examined.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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