The health advantage of volunteering is larger for older and less healthy volunteers in Europe: a mega-analysis. Academic Article uri icon


  • UNLABELLED: There is a vast literature on the health benefits associated with volunteering for volunteers. Such health advantages are likely to vary across groups of volunteers with different characteristics. The current paper aims to examine the health advantages of volunteering for European volunteers and explore heterogeneity in the association between volunteering and health. We carry out a mega-analysis on microdata from six panel surveys, covering 952,026 observations from 267,212 respondents in 22 European countries. We provide open access to the code we developed for data harmonization. We use ordinary least squares, fixed effects, first difference, and fixed effect quantile regressions to estimate how volunteering activities and changes therein are related to self-rated health for different groups. Our results indicate a small but consistently positive association between changes in volunteering and changes in health within individuals. This association is stronger for older adults. For respondents 60years and older, within-person changes in volunteering are significantly related to changes in self-rated health. Additionally, the health advantage of volunteering is larger for respondents in worse health. The advantage is largest at the lowest decile and gradually declines along the health distribution. The magnitude of the association at the first decile is about twice the magnitude of the association at the ninth decile. These results suggest that volunteering may be more beneficial for the health of specific groups in society. With small health advantages from year to year, volunteering may protect older and less healthy adults from health decline in the long run. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10433-022-00691-5.

published proceedings

  • Eur J Ageing

altmetric score

  • 13.25

author list (cited authors)

  • de Wit, A., Qu, H., & Bekkers, R.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • de Wit, Arjen||Qu, Heng||Bekkers, RenĂ©

publication date

  • January 2022