Associations between Volunteering and Mental Health during COVID-19 among Chinese Older Adults

J Gerontol Soc Work. 2021 Sep;64(6):599-612. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2021.1904079. Epub 2021 Mar 26.


Evidence about the association between volunteering and the mental health of older adults during COVID-19 remains underexplored. This study investigated (1) patterns of volunteering among older adults in Hong Kong during COVID-19; (2) associations between volunteering and mental health of older adults during COVID-19; and (3) associations between key psychological resources (e.g., self-efficacy and self-esteem) and volunteering among older adults during COVID-19. This study applied a cross-sectional design with data collected from 128 older adults in June 2020, who were trained as volunteers in a volunteer program that began before COVID-19. The study found that older adults continued to actively contribute to their communities by engaging in volunteering during COVID-19. The specific type of volunteering activities was linked to few depressive and anxiety symptoms. Older adults with increased self-esteem prior to COVID-19 were more likely to participate in volunteering activities related to COVID-19. Our study suggested that encouraging older adults to volunteer during the pandemic is a key pathway to maintain mental health. Social workers are encouraged to engage older adults in volunteerism regularly to offset the risk of depression and anxiety symptoms in times of crisis.

Keywords: Volunteerism; depression; health – mental; productive aging; volunteering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Self Concept
  • Self Efficacy
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Volunteers / psychology*