Do predictors of volunteering in older age differ by health status?

A. Principi, H. Galenkamp-van der Ploeg, R. Papa, M. Socci, B. Suanet, A. Schmidt, K. Schullman, S. Golinowska, A. Sowa, A. Moreira, D.J.H. Deeg

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It has been widely recognised that poor health is one of the main barriers to participation in volunteer activities in older age. Therefore, it is crucial to examine the participation of older people in volunteering, especially those in poor health. Based on the resource theory of volunteering, the aim of this study is to better understand the correlates of volunteering among older people with different health statuses, namely those without health problems (neither multimorbidity nor disability), those with mild health problems (multimorbidity or disability), and those with severe health problems (multimorbidity and disability). Data were drawn from the fourth wave (2011–2012, release 1.1.1) of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe, which includes European people aged 50 years or older. The results showed that variables linked to volunteering were generally similar regardless of health status, but some differences were nevertheless identified. For older people with mild or severe health problems, for instance, depressive symptoms were negatively associated with their involvement in volunteer activities. We found a positive association of being widowed (rather than married) with volunteering in older people with particularly poor health, whereas high income was associated with volunteering in the case of mild health problems only. These results demonstrate that variables associated with volunteer participation partially differ between older people depending on their health status. These differences should be considered by policy makers in their attempts to promote volunteering in older people, as a means of preventing their social exclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-102
JournalEuropean Journal of Ageing
Issue number2
Early online date13 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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