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Charity, Volunteering Type and Subjective Wellbeing

Abstract

We examine the impact of volunteering and charitable donations on subjective wellbeing. We further consider if the model of the volunteering work (formal vs. informal) and the geographical location of the charity organisation (local vs. international) people donate to has any impact on subjective wellbeing. Using UK’s Community Life Survey data, we find that volunteering and engagement in charity are positively associated with subjective wellbeing, measured by individual life satisfaction. We show that while there is a positive effect of volunteering and charity on life satisfaction, the level of utility gained depends on the type of charity or volunteering organisation engaged with (i.e. local or international). Specifically, donating to local (neighbourhood) charities as opposed to international/national charities is associated with higher wellbeing. Similarly, engaging in informal volunteering, compared to formal volunteering, is associated with higher wellbeing. To explain our results, we use the construal-level theory of psychological distance, which suggests that people think more concretely of actions and objects that they find spatially and socially close.

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Notes

  1. In this study, our main measure of subjective wellbeing is self-reported life satisfaction although we also use happiness a proxy for wellbeing in robustness checks.

  2. Formal volunteering involves unpaid help in officially designated volunteer positions that is given through groups, organizations or clubs to benefit other people. On the other hand, informal help or volunteering is giving unpaid help as an individual.

  3. Unpaid help represents casual help that is provided by the respondent to others but not in the context of formal or informal volunteering.

  4. Local charity refers to charities located within a respondent’s immediate neighbourhood or community in the UK.

  5. Local charities here refer to charities within a respondent’s immediate locality or neighbourhood.

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Correspondence to Sefa Awaworyi Churchill.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5 and 6.

Table 5 Description and summary statistics of variables
Table 6 Summary statistics of volunteering/charity by wellbeing levels

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Appau, S., Awaworyi Churchill, S. Charity, Volunteering Type and Subjective Wellbeing. Voluntas 30, 1118–1132 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-018-0009-8

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Keywords

  • Charity
  • Volunteer
  • Wellbeing
  • Life satisfaction
  • Psychological distance

JEL Classification

  • I31