Do productive activities reduce inflammation in later life? Multiple roles, frequency of activities, and C-reactive protein

Gerontologist. 2014 Oct;54(5):830-9. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnt090. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


Purpose of the study: The study investigates whether productive activities by older adults reduce bodily inflammation, as indicated by C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomeasure associated with the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Design and methods: The study uses a representative survey of adults aged 57-85 from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (N = 1,790). Linear regression models were used to analyze the effects of multiple roles (employment, volunteering, attending meetings, and caregiving) and the frequency of activity within each role on log values of CRP concentration (mg/L) drawn from assayed blood samples.

Results: Number of roles for productive activities was associated with lower levels of CRP net of chronic conditions, lifestyle factors, and socioeconomic resources. When specific types of activity were examined, volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation, particularly in the 70+ group. There was no evidence that frequent engagement in volunteer activity was associated with heightened inflammation.

Implications: Productive activities-and frequent volunteering in particular-may protect individuals from inflammation that is associated with increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: Acute-phase protein; Productive activities; Social participation; Volunteering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism*
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Social Participation*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Volunteers / psychology


  • C-Reactive Protein