Voluntary association membership and psychological distress

J Health Soc Behav. 1998 Dec;39(4):348-55.


Does voluntary association reduce psychological distress and can these effects be distinguished from the more commonly recognized benefits of social support? This paper attempts to answer this question by reporting the results of an investigation, guided by the stress process model, into the effects of voluntary group membership on psychological distress. I conducted this research through a secondary analysis of a community sample of 850 persons residing in southwestern Ontario in 1984. I find that voluntary group membership results in a reduction in depressive symptoms for men and women ranging in age from 22-89. In addition, voluntary group members suffer lower levels of depressive symptoms in the presence of increasing stress burdens than do those who are not group members, indicating stress buffering effects. Controlling for individual psychosocial resources including mastery, self-esteem, and social support does not reduce these effects, thus leading to the conclusion that voluntary association membership itself makes a unique contribution to distress reduction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Ontario
  • Organizations*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Behavior*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*