Only moderate health benefits of being a volunteer
Volunteering has only small beneficial effects on the health, subjective well-being and social networks of volunteers. Whereas previous studies found volunteers to be healthier and happier as well as to have a stronger social network, the issue of causality is often not addressed adequately. It could very well be that healthier and happier people with stronger networks are selected into volunteering.
In order to disentangle selection effects from causal effects, researchers of the Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU Amsterdam examined six panel survey datasets from countries across Europe. Starting or stopping with voluntary work is associated with changes in subjective health, subjective well-being and the strength of one’s social network, but the effects are small. A large part of the variance between volunteers and non-volunteers can be attributed to selection effects.
The publication “Welfare impacts of participation”, which is part of the EU-funded research project Impact of the Third Sector as Social Innovation (ITSSOIN), is available here.