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Aspects of formal volunteering that contribute to favourable psychological outcomes in older adults

Abstract

Although there is a large body of evidence documenting the benefits of engagement in formal volunteering among older people, research assessing the specific aspects of the volunteering experience that are associated with these benefits is limited. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to (i) examine the aspects of volunteering that predict improvements or declines in older people’s psychological outcomes over time and (ii) assess the extent to which demographic characteristics and time spent engaging in informal volunteering moderate the relationship between aspects of volunteering and potential outcomes. At Time 1, non-volunteering Australian older adults completed measures assessing their subjective well-being, eudemonic well-being, and psychological resources and were asked to commence volunteering. At Time 2 (six months later), participants completed the same measures and reported on their volunteering experiences. Among the 108 older adults who provided usable data at both time points (average age = 69.86 years, 64% women), the degree to which participants felt overwhelmed by their volunteer work significantly predicted declines in subjective well-being and psychological resources. The perceived importance of the cause for which participants reported volunteering and the perceived meaningfulness of the specific activities undertaken predicted improvements in these outcomes. Volunteering roles for older adults that (i) are not considered overwhelming, (ii) fulfil their desire to volunteer for a cause about which they are genuinely concerned, and (iii) involve activities perceived to be meaningful are likely to produce the favourable psychological outcomes.

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Data are unavailable as participants did not consent to their data being shared with researchers external to the author team.

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Funding

This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP140100365). The funder played no role in study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of this article; and in the decision to submit this article for publication.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

MIJ: conceptualisation, methodology, formal analysis, investigation, data curation, writing—original draft, and writing—review and editing. BJ, JW, and RUN: methodology and writing—review and editing. SP: funding acquisition, conceptualisation, methodology, writing—review and editing, supervision, and project administration.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michelle I. Jongenelis.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Jongenelis, M.I., Jackson, B., Warburton, J. et al. Aspects of formal volunteering that contribute to favourable psychological outcomes in older adults. Eur J Ageing 19, 107–116 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-021-00618-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10433-021-00618-6

Keywords

  • Formal volunteering
  • Subjective well-being
  • Eudemonic well-being
  • Psychological resources
  • Older adults