The beneficial effects of volunteering for older volunteers and the people they serve: a meta-analysis

Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1998;47(1):69-79. doi: 10.2190/VUMP-XCMF-FQYU-V0JH.


The current political-economic climate, which is generally supportive of both private and public sector down-sizing, increasingly demands that human service workers assess, engage, and creatively use consumer strengths and resources. This meta-analysis of thirty-seven independent studies provided the means of inferring not only that elder volunteers' sense of well-being seemed to be significantly bolstered through volunteering, but also that such relatively healthy older people represent a significant adjunct resource for meeting some of the service needs of more vulnerable elders, as well as those of other similarly vulnerable groups such as disabled children. Averaging across studies, 85 percent of the "clients" who received service from an older volunteer (e.g., peer-counseling of nursing home residents) scored better on dependent measures (e.g., diminished depression) than the average person in comparison conditions did (U3 = .847 [Cohen, 1988], combined p < .001). The policy implications of such beneficial effects among both older volunteers and the people they serve are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • North America
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Volunteers / psychology*