Volunteering and Wellbeing Among Ageing Adults: A Longitudinal Analysis
Previous scholarship has shown evidence of a positive relationship between volunteering and improved measures of mental and physical wellbeing. It has also been suggested that volunteering may help individuals navigate transitions between different life stages by encouraging them to become more involved in their communities, thereby building new social connections and improving networks of social support. Using Waves 2 and 3 of panel data from the Midlife in the United States Survey, we examined whether volunteering can buffer against the negative effects of low self-esteem on correlates of psychosocial wellbeing in adults from mid- to later-life. Results indicated that participation in volunteering mitigates the negative effects of adults’ low self-esteem on their sense of belonging and life satisfaction. In particular, we determined the adverse effect of negative self-esteem at time T1 on our wellbeing measures (belonging to the community and life satisfaction) at T2 above and beyond the effects of the same measures at T1 and the covariates. Furthermore, we found positive evidence for the moderating influence of volunteering on the relationship between negative self-esteem and both measures of wellbeing, although the effect was stronger for life satisfaction than for belonging. These conclusions suggest that volunteering acts as a buffer for ageing adults, with possible public health implications.
KeywordsVolunteering Belonging Life satisfaction Self-esteem Wellbeing
In partial support, Allison R. Russell has received a Summer Research Fellowship from the School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania, and Arjen de Wit Vrije received a travel grant from the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Bai, H. (2015). Current issues on propensity score matching: Matching with/without replacement, common support, and sample ratio. In W. Pan & H. Bai (Eds.), Propensity score analysis: Fundamentals, developments and extensions. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Chen, C. M., Yeh, C. Y., & Chang, C. H. (2014). Volunteering and life satisfaction: An investigation of endogeneity. Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, 55, 21–32.Google Scholar
- De Wit, A., Bekkers, R., Karamat Ali, D., & Verkaik, D. (2015). Welfare impacts of participation. In Deliverable 3.3 of the project: “Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation” (ITSSOIN), European Commission—7th Framework Programme, Brussels: European Commission, DG Research.Google Scholar
- Enjolras, B. (2015). The impact of volunteering on volunteers in 23 European countries, TSI working paper series no. 4, Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement 613034), European Union. Brussels: Third Sector Impact.Google Scholar
- Frankl, V. E. (2006). Man’s search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
- Gonyea, J. G., & Googins, B. K. (2007). Expanding the boundaries of corporate volunteerism: Tapping the skills, talent, and energy of retirees. Generations, 30(4), 78–84.Google Scholar
- Hinterlong, J. E., & Williamson, A. (2007). The effects of civic engagement of current and future cohorts of older adults. Generations, 30(4), 10–17.Google Scholar
- Lin, N., & Peek, M. K. (1999). Social networks and mental health. In A. V. Horwitz & T. L. Scheid (Eds.), A handbook for the study of mental health: Social contexts, theories, and systems (pp. 241–258). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Morrow-Howell, N., Halvorsen, C. J., Hovmand, P., Lee, C., & Ballard, E. (2017). Conceptualizing productive engagement in a system dynamics framework. Innovation in Aging, 00(00), 1–13.Google Scholar
- Nolan, L. C. (2011). Dimensions of aging and belonging for the older person and the effects of ageism. BYU Journal of Public Law, 25, 317–339.Google Scholar
- Piliavin, J. A., & Siegl, E. (2015). Health and well-being consequences of formal volunteering. In D. A. Schroeder & W. G. Graziano (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of prosocial behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Poo, A. (2015). The age of dignity: Preparing for the elder boom in a changing America. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
- Rosenbaum, P. R., & Rubin, D. B. (1985). Constructing a control group using multivariate matched sampling methods that incorporate the propensity score. The American Statistician, 39(1), 33–38.Google Scholar
- Ryff, C., et al. (2006). National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS II), 2004–2006. ICPSR04652-v6. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2012–04-18. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04652.v6.
- Ryff, C., et al. (2014). National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS III), 2013-2014. ICPSR36346-v4. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2016-03-10.Google Scholar
- Whillans, A. V., Seider, S. C., Chen, L., Dwyer, R. J., Novick, S., Gramigna, K. J., et al. (2017). Does volunteering improve well-being? Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology, 1(1–3), 35–50.Google Scholar
- Zedlewski, S. R., & Schaner, S. G. (2005). Older adults’ engagement should be recognized and encouraged. Perspectives on Productive Ageing, 1. The Urban Institute Retirement Project. Available online at http://www.urban.org/research/publication/older-adults-engagement-should-be-recognized-and-encouraged. Accessed 31 January 31 2018.