Benefits of formal voluntary work among older people. A review

Gerontology Research Centre, Dept. of Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35 (Viveca), FIN-40014, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Aging clinical and experimental research (Impact Factor: 1.22). 06/2011; 23(3):162-9. DOI: 10.3275/7200
Source: PubMed


A narrative review of quantitative population-based longitudinal studies was conducted to examine the association of formal voluntary work and personal well-being among older people doing the voluntary work and those being served.
To be included, the study had to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, written in English and conducted in Western countries, participants were at least 60 years of age, the study employed a longitudinal or experimental design, the methodology and outcomes were explicitly described, and voluntary work quantified as visits or hours within a certain time frame.
Sixteen studies out of 2897 met the inclusion criteria for the review reporting on benefits of volunteering for those doing the voluntary work. Outcomes were collapsed into three categories of personal well-being: physical health, mental health, and psychosocial resources. All included studies came from the United States and showed that volunteering in old age predicted better self-rated health, functioning, physical activity and life satisfaction as well as decreased depression and mortality. However, it did not decrease the risk of chronic diseases or nursing home admission in old age. Only one study which met the inclusion criteria on the benefits of volunteering for older recipients was identified.
Studies mainly used data from large datasets with only limited information about volunteering, which limits more detailed analyses. Randomized controlled trials are needed to study the effect of voluntary work on those being served, as well as to reveal the healthy participant effect among volunteers.

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    • "This systematic review and meta-analysis has updated the evidence base regarding the potential health benefits of volunteering. By removing adult age and language filters, trials and cohort studies deemed ineligible by earlier reviews [11,12] were included. Furthermore, volunteering interventions were systematically described and the impact on health outcomes of factors such as volunteering intensity and duration, and volunteers’ characteristics (e.g. "
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    ABSTRACT: Volunteering has been advocated by the United Nations, and American and European governments as a way to engage people in their local communities and improve social capital, with the potential for public health benefits such as improving wellbeing and decreasing health inequalities. Furthermore, the US Corporation for National and Community Service Strategic Plan for 2011--2015 focused on increasing the impact of national service on community needs, supporting volunteers' wellbeing, and prioritising recruitment and engagement of underrepresented populations. The aims of this review were to examine the effect of formal volunteering on volunteers' physical and mental health and survival, and to explore the influence of volunteering type and intensity on health outcomes. Experimental and cohort studies comparing the physical and mental health outcomes and mortality of a volunteering group to a non-volunteering group were identified from twelve electronic databases (Cochrane Library, Medline, Embase, PsychINFO, CINAHL, ERIC, HMIC, SSCI, ASSIA, Social Care Online, Social Policy and Practice) and citation tracking in January 2013. No language, country or date restrictions were applied. Data synthesis was based on vote counting and random effects meta-analysis of mortality risk ratios. Forty papers were selected: five randomised controlled trials (RCTs, seven papers); four non-RCTs; and 17 cohort studies (29 papers). Cohort studies showed volunteering had favourable effects on depression, life satisfaction, wellbeing but not on physical health. These findings were not confirmed by experimental studies. Meta-analysis of five cohort studies found volunteers to be at lower risk of mortality (risk ratio: 0.78; 95% CI: 0.66, 0.90). There was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a consistent influence of volunteering type or intensity on outcomes. Observational evidence suggested that volunteering may benefit mental health and survival although the causal mechanisms remain unclear. Consequently, there was limited robustly designed research to guide the development of volunteering as a public health promotion intervention. Future studies should explicitly map intervention design to clear health outcomes as well as use pragmatic RCT methodology to test effects.
    BMC Public Health 08/2013; 13(1):773. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-13-773 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The purpose of this survey was to explore volunteer preferences, perceived benefits and barriers, and the factors that influence volunteering among older adults living in a continuing care retirement community. This was a single group, one-time survey completed via a face-to-face interview. The sample included 127 older adults who were eligible and completed the survey. The majority were women (78%) and White (98%), with an average age of 88.0 (SD = 6.5) years. Engagement in volunteer activities ranged from 0 to 7, with a mean of .94 (SD = 1.30). Just under half (47%) of the participants were engaged in volunteer work, with the majority (87%) volunteering within the facility. Perceived benefits and barriers to volunteering were described. Chronic illness, age, time spent exercising, and resilience accounted for 25% of the variance in volunteer activity. Those who had fewer chronic illnesses, were younger, spent more time exercising, and were more resilient were more likely to volunteer. Findings from this study suggest that there are advantages to offering volunteer activities within senior living facilities. Ongoing study is needed to develop and implement successful facility-specific volunteer programs.
    Journal of Housing for the Elderly 01/2013; 27(1-2):161-176. DOI:10.1080/02763893.2012.754820
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