Helping Others Helps? A Self-Determination Theory Approach on Work Climate and Wellbeing among Volunteers

  • Yandan Wu
  • Chunxiao LiEmail author


Participation in voluntary work is not sufficient to facilitate one’s psychological wellbeing and the motivation underlying this helping behavior may matter. Grounded in self-determination theory, this survey research examined the relationships among a supportive work climate, autonomous/controlled motivation, and subjective wellbeing (i.e., emotional exhaustion and life satisfaction). Volunteers (n = 2022) answered a survey form measuring the related study variables. The results of structural equation modeling indicated that a supportive work climate positively and negatively predicted autonomous and controlled motivation, respectively. Autonomous motivation was a negative predictor of emotional exhaustion and a positive predictor of life satisfaction, whereas controlled motivation positively predicted emotional exhaustion and negatively predicted life satisfaction. A supportive work climate had an indirect effect on emotional exhaustion and life satisfaction via autonomous/controlled motivation. These findings suggest that only when volunteers are motivated by autonomous forms of motivation will their subjective wellbeing be enhanced.


Volunteering Motivation Autonomy support Emotional exhaustion Satisfaction 



We would also like to thank research assistants and participants for their contribution to this research. We would also like to thank reviewers’ formative comments.


This study was supported by the National Social Science Fund [number 15BTY071].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical standards were followed when conducted this research.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fujian Normal UniversityFuzhouChina
  2. 2.The Education University of Hong KongTai PoHong Kong
  3. 3.Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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