, Volume 6, Issue 1-2, pp 47-57
Date: 11 Jan 2013

Socially Productive Activities, Reciprocity and Well-Being in Early Old Age: Gender-Specific Results from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA)

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Abstract

This study explores the associations between reciprocity in socially productive activities, such as volunteering and caring for someone and well-being (evaluative and experienced), separately for men and women in the years leading up to State Pension Age. We investigate the stability of our associations by examining cross sectional and longitudinal associations, with outcomes assessed 2 years later. The sample comes from the second and third wave of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA); we selected 4,052 respondents who were below State Pension Age at wave 2, i.e. aged between 52 and 64. Evaluative well-being was measured using quality of life and experienced well-being was measured using depressive symptoms. Baseline regression analyses adjusted for confounders showed that reciprocity in volunteering was associated with higher quality of life and lower odds of being depressed for both men and women. Non-reciprocity in caring was strongly associated with poorer quality of life and with higher odds of having depressive symptoms for women but not for men. From longitudinal analyses adjusted for baseline confounders we found that among men, non-reciprocity in caring and volunteering (at baseline) was associated with decreased quality of life and with higher odds of having depressive symptoms (at follow-up); among women non-reciprocity in caring (at baseline) and reciprocity in volunteering (at baseline) were not associated with decreased quality of life 2 years later. These findings suggest that in the years leading up to State Pension Age there might be important gender differences, not previously explored, in perceived reciprocity for those engaged in volunteering and in caring that have important consequences for evaluative and experienced well-being.