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Age Ageing. 2017 Sep 1;46(5):821-826. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afx017.

Caregiving, volunteering or both? Comparing effects on health and mortality using census-based records from almost 250,000 people aged 65 and over.

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Queen's University Belfast - Centre for Public Health, Belfast, UK.
Ulster University - Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Derry, UK.
Queen's University Belfast - Administrative Data Research Centre for Northern Ireland, ICBS-B Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT76BA, UK.



the health impacts of caregiving and volunteering are rarely studied concurrently, despite the potential for both synergies and conflicts. This population-based study examines the association of these activities on health and subsequent mortality.


a census-based record-linkage study of 244,429 people aged 65 and over, with cohort characteristics, caregiving and volunteering status, and presence of chronic health conditions derived from the Census returns. Mortality risk was assessed over the following 45 months with adjustment for baseline characteristics.


caregivers and volunteers were individually more mobile than those undertaking neither activity; caregivers who also volunteered were more mobile than those who did not volunteer, but no less likely to suffer from poor mental health. Both caregiving and volunteering were separately associated with reduced mortality risk (HR = 0.74: 95% confidence intervals (CIs) = 0.71, 0.77 and HR = 0.76: 0.73, 0.81, respectively); the lowest mortality was found amongst light caregivers who also volunteered (HR = 0.53: 95% CIs = 0.45, 0.62), compared to those engaged in neither. There was no evidence of a multiplicative effect of caregiving and volunteering at more intense levels of caregiving.


there is a large overlap in caregiving and volunteering activities with complex associations with health status. There is some evidence that combining caregiving and volunteering activities, for those involved in less intense levels of caregiving, maybe associated with lower mortality risk than associated with either activity alone. Further research is needed to understand which aspects of caregiving and volunteering are best and for whom and in which circumstances.


caregiving; mortality risk; older people; volunteering

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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