European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 59–68 | Cite as

Are changes in productive activities of older people associated with changes in their well-being? Results of a longitudinal European study

  • Morten WahrendorfEmail author
  • Johannes Siegrist
Original Investigation


Using the first two waves from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) we explore dynamics of participation in two different types of productive activities (voluntary work and care for a person) and test their association with changes in well-being across 11 European countries (N = 10,309) among people aged 50 and older. In order to measure changes in well-being, we use a standardized instrument of quality of life in early old age (CASP-12) and assess relevant decreases and increases between both waves, applying the Edwards–Nunnally method. Main findings demonstrate that older people who maintain or start their productive activity in terms of volunteering between both waves have a lower probability of experiencing a relevant decrease in well-being, while no association with a relevant increase in well-being is observed. In case of caring for a person changes in participation remain unrelated to changes in well-being. These results are maintained after adjusting for important confounders, such as functional limitation, socioeconomic position and living with a partner. These latter conditions were also strongly related to changes in well-being. Our results support a core assumption of the activity theory of ageing claiming that the initiation and maintenance of a productive activity is beneficial for older people’s well-being.


SHARE Social productivity Well-being Dynamics 



This paper uses data from SHARE release 2.3.0, as of November 13th 2009. SHARE data collection in 2004-2007 was primarily funded by the European Commission through its 5th and 6th framework programmes (project numbers QLK6-CT-2001- 00360; RII-CT- 2006-062193; CIT5-CT-2005-028857). Additional funding by the US National Institute on Aging (grant numbers U01 AG09740-13S2; P01 AG005842; P01 AG08291; P30 AG12815; Y1-AG-4553-01; OGHA 04-064; R21 AG025169) as well as by various national sources is gratefully acknowledged (see for a full list of funding institutions). We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on an earlier version of this contribution.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical SociologyUniversity of DuesseldorfDuesseldorfGermany

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