The effects of volunteering on the physical and mental health of older people

Terry Y. Lum, Elizabeth Lightfoot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

340 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to build on the growing body of literature examining the correlations between volunteering and health among older persons. Longitudinal data from the 1993 and 2000 panels of the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old Study (AHEAD) were used to measure health and mental health outcomes of people over age 70 who volunteered at least 100 hours in 1993. The findings provide empirical support to earlier claims that volunteering slows the decline in self-reported health and functioning levels, slows the increase in depression levels, and improves mortality rates for those who volunteer. However, volunteering had no effect on the number of physician-diagnosed health conditions or nursing home residence rates. The findings provide support for the concept of role enhancement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-55
Number of pages25
JournalResearch on Aging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Health
  • Medical conditions
  • Mental health
  • Older volunteers
  • Physical functioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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