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Social productivity and well-being of older people: baseline results from the SHARE study

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Abstract

Social and productive activities have been associated with more favorable well-being and health outcomes in older populations. There is limited consensus on what aspects account for the observed effect and what pathways may underlie their associations. Using data from the 2004 ‘Survey of Health Aging and Retirement in Europe’ (SHARE), based on some 22,000 participants aged 50 and older from ten European countries, this study explores types and quality of productive activities (voluntary work, care for a person, informal help) and its association with two indicators of well-being (depressive symptoms, quality of life). Quality of social productivity is analyzed in the frame of a sociological model based on the notion of exchange reciprocity. Results of multivariate linear regression analysis, adjusted for important confounders, confirm an association of productive activity with well-being. However, this association varies according to experienced quality of exchange: Experienced reciprocity between efforts spent and rewards received is associated with positive well-being (with the exception of caring), while non-reciprocal exchange (high effort and low reward) is associated with negative well-being in all activities. Findings underline the need to improve quality of exchange in socially productive activities as a means of motivating older people to participate in societal life.

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Acknowledgment

The authors are grateful to the members of the working group on social productivity and well-being in the SHARE research team, in particular David Blane, Andrew Clark, Martin Hyde, Hendrik Jürges, Alexandra Kupfer, Michael Marmot, James Nazroo, and Frank Pühlhofer. This research has been funded through the 5th framework programme under the project name of AMANDA (“Advanced Multidisciplinary Analysis of New Data on Ageing”, QLK6-CT-2002-002426). The SHARE data collection has been primarily funded by the European Commission through the 5th framework programme (project QLK6-CT-2001-00360 in the thematic programme Quality of Life programme area). Additional funding came from the US National Institute on Ageing (U01 AG09740-13S2, P01 AG005842, P01 AG08291, P30 AG12815, Y1-AG- 4553-01 and OGHA 04-064). Data collection in Austria (through the Austrian Science Foundation, FWF), Belgium (through the Belgian Science Policy Administration), and Switzerland (through BBW/OFES/UFES) was nationally funded. The SHARE data set is introduced in Börsch-Supan et al. (2005); methodological details are contained in Börsch-Supan and Jürges (2005).

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Correspondence to Morten Wahrendorf.

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Wahrendorf, M., von dem Knesebeck, O. & Siegrist, J. Social productivity and well-being of older people: baseline results from the SHARE study. Eur J Ageing 3, 67–73 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-006-0028-y

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