The Effects of Disaggregated Longitudinal Volunteering Patterns on Self-Rated Health

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Building on an increasing body of evidence that volunteering is beneficial to volunteers’ health, the present study aims to further explore the relationship between volunteering and health from the life course perspective. Using the two waves of data from the Americans’ Changing Lives Study, I examine the effects of disaggregated longitudinal volunteering patterns on self-rated health by combining consistency (levels of volunteering over time) with both intensity (how many hours spent in volunteering) and diversity (the number of types of organizations), which has not been done in previous studies. Results show that volunteering does benefit volunteers’ prospective self-rated health and changes in self-rated health, but the effects differ by different volunteering patterns. These findings indicate the importance of considering the heterogeneity across volunteers, dynamics of volunteering and human agency when studying the relationship between volunteering and health, which should be explored more in future studies with longer periods of panel data. Apart from academic implications, practical meanings are also worth noting: In a so called era of decline in social capital, when more knowledge about the beneficial effects of volunteering is obtained, volunteering as a great form of social integration to connect people may be more easily accepted by the public because this engagement benefits both others and volunteers themselves. Hence, the knowledge from my study further answers the question about how to resolve the paradox between individualism and altruism.





Zhou, Caoyifu (2018). The Effects of Disaggregated Longitudinal Volunteering Patterns on Self-Rated Health. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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