Volunteering by older adults and risk of mortality: a meta-analysis

Psychol Aging. 2013 Jun;28(2):564-77. doi: 10.1037/a0031519. Epub 2013 Feb 18.

Abstract

Organizational volunteering has been touted as an effective strategy for older adults to help themselves while helping others. Extending previous reviews, we carried out a meta-analysis of the relation between organizational volunteering by late-middle-aged and older adults (minimum age = 55 years old) and risk of mortality. We focused on unadjusted effect sizes (i.e., bivariate relations), adjusted effect sizes (i.e., controlling for other variables such as health), and interaction effect sizes (e.g., the joint effect of volunteering and religiosity). For unadjusted effect sizes, on average, volunteering reduced mortality risk by 47%, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 38% to 55%. For adjusted effect sizes, on average, volunteering reduced mortality risk by 24%, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 16% to 31%. For interaction effect sizes, we found preliminary support that as public religiosity increases, the inverse relation between volunteering and mortality risk becomes stronger. The discussion identifies several unresolved issues and directions for future research.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Risk*
  • Volunteers / organization & administration
  • Volunteers / statistics & numerical data*