The effect of volunteering on the health of older people

A Campbell Collaboration systematic review has identified some positive outcomes for older people who get involved in volunteering.

This Campbell systematic review examines the effects volunteering on the physical and mental health of older people who volunteer. The review summarises evidence from 26 studies undertaken in Australia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Korea and USA which involved over 47,000 volunteers in total.

…Volunteering improves the physical and mental health of volunteers. The effect is best documented for mortality, with too few studies to draw conclusions for other outcomes.

For physical health, the evidence shows that there is a positive effect on reducing mortality (10 studies) and possibly incident functional disability (3 studies). Volunteering may support the maintenance of functional competence (3 studies) and slow the decline in instrumental activities of daily living (2 studies).

For mental health, volunteering may reduce depression (3 studies).

There was no evidence of adverse effects.

In all cases, there is little variation in the estimated effects from the different studies. However, the effects are small, and except in the case of mortality, based on a small number of studies.

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