Objectives. Although a number of authors have proposed that older volunteers should benefit in terms of better health and well-being, few researchers have examined the issue empirically to see whether this is true. The purpose of this article is to build on this literature by empirically examining the association between volunteering and mortality among older adults.
Methods. Using data from a nationally representative sample, we use Cox proportional hazards regression to estimate the effects of volunteering on the rate of mortality among persons aged 65 and older.
Results. We find that volunteering has a protective effect on mortality among those who volunteered for one organization or for forty hours or less over the past year. We further find that the protective effects of volunteering are strongest for respondents who report low levels of informal social interaction and who do not live alone.
Discussion. We discuss the possibility that the curvilinear relationship we observe between volunteering and mortality is due to a combination of factors, including self-identity, role strain, and meaningfulness. Other research using more precise data is needed to determine whether these ideas are supportable.
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