Volunteering and trajectories of depression

J Aging Health. 2010 Feb;22(1):84-105. doi: 10.1177/0898264309351310. Epub 2009 Nov 17.


Objective: The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to examine the association between volunteering and trajectories of depression; and (2) to evaluate whether this relationship varies by age.

Method: Data come from three waves of the Americans' Changing Lives (ACL) study. ACL is a nationally representative sample of adults 25 years of age or older who lived in the United States.

Results: Latent growth model analysis indicates that although volunteering is associated with lower levels of baseline depression, it does not predict trajectories of depression. Nevertheless, further analyses reveal an age variation in the relationship between volunteering and trajectories of depression. Specifically, we find that volunteering affects the decline of depression for individuals above age 65; yet there is no effect of volunteering on trajectories of depression for younger and middle-aged adults.

Discussion: Overall findings highlight the importance of assessing the long-term health impact of volunteering and doing so under diverse social structural contexts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Behavior*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Volunteers / psychology*