European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 91–102 | Cite as

Do predictors of volunteering in older age differ by health status?

  • Andrea Principi
  • Henrike Galenkamp
  • Roberta Papa
  • Marco Socci
  • Bianca Suanet
  • Andrea Schmidt
  • Katharine Schulmann
  • Stella Golinowska
  • Agnieszka Sowa
  • Amilcar Moreira
  • Dorly J. H. Deeg
Original Investigation


It has been widely recognised that poor health is one of the main barriers to participation in volunteer activities in older age. Therefore, it is crucial to examine the participation of older people in volunteering, especially those in poor health. Based on the resource theory of volunteering, the aim of this study is to better understand the correlates of volunteering among older people with different health statuses, namely those without health problems (neither multimorbidity nor disability), those with mild health problems (multimorbidity or disability), and those with severe health problems (multimorbidity and disability). Data were drawn from the fourth wave (2011–2012, release 1.1.1) of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, which includes European people aged 50 years or older. The results showed that variables linked to volunteering were generally similar regardless of health status, but some differences were nevertheless identified. For older people with mild or severe health problems, for instance, depressive symptoms were negatively associated with their involvement in volunteer activities. We found a positive association of being widowed (rather than married) with volunteering in older people with particularly poor health, whereas high income was associated with volunteering in the case of mild health problems only. These results demonstrate that variables associated with volunteer participation partially differ between older people depending on their health status. These differences should be considered by policy makers in their attempts to promote volunteering in older people, as a means of preventing their social exclusion.


Older volunteers Active ageing Multimorbidity Disability Health conditions SHARE 



This project received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development, and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 320333 (MOPACT). This paper uses data from SHARE wave 4 release 1.1.1, as of March 28, 2013. The SHARE data collection was primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th Framework Programme (Project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life), through the 6th Framework Programme (Projects SHARE-I3, RII-CT-2006-062193, COMPARE, CIT5-CT-2005-028857, and SHARELIFE, CIT4-CT-2006-028812), and through the 7th Framework Programme (SHARE-PREP, No. 211909, SHARE-LEAP, No. 227822, and SHARE M4, No. 261982). Additional funding from the U.S. National Institute on Aging (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, R21 AG025169, Y1-AG-4553-01, IAG BSR06-11, and OGHA 04-064) and the German Ministry of Education and Research as well as from various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Principi
    • 1
  • Henrike Galenkamp
    • 2
  • Roberta Papa
    • 1
  • Marco Socci
    • 1
  • Bianca Suanet
    • 3
  • Andrea Schmidt
    • 4
  • Katharine Schulmann
    • 4
  • Stella Golinowska
    • 5
  • Agnieszka Sowa
    • 5
  • Amilcar Moreira
    • 6
  • Dorly J. H. Deeg
    • 2
  1. 1.National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing (INRCA)AnconaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, EMGO Institute for health and Care ResearchVU University Medical CentreAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social SciencesVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  4. 4.European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and ResearchViennaAustria
  5. 5.Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)WarsawPoland
  6. 6.Institute of Social ScienceUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal

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