Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Volunteering can benefit those with functional limitations, study finds

Date:
November 3, 2010
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
Volunteering is known to provide health benefits to the person doing the volunteering. Now, a new study finds that older adults with functional limitations (trouble conducting daily tasks like cooking meals) in particular appear to reap the benefits from helping others.

Volunteering is known to provide health benefits to the person doing the volunteering. Now, a new study finds that older adults with functional limitations (trouble conducting daily tasks like cooking meals) in particular appear to reap the benefits from helping others.

The new study addresses the question of whether the impact of volunteering on risk of mortality was stronger for older adults with or without functional limitations.

"As functional limitations increase, the risk of dying increases, but not among those who volunteered," said Morris Okun, an Arizona State University professor of psychology. "By helping other people, you are actually helping yourself."

With the leading edge of the Baby Boomers approaching 65 years old, the study raises some interesting possibilities for our nation, Okun said.

Okun is the lead author of "Does volunteering moderate the relation between functional limitations and mortality?" published in the November 2010 issue of Social Science & Medicine. Okun and his co-authors -- Kristin August and Karen Rook, of the University of California-Irvine, and Jason Newsom of Portland State University -- obtained their findings from secondary data analysis of a longitudinal study conducted by Rook.

The study used baseline survey data from a representative sample of 916 non-institutionalized adults 65 years old and older who lived in the continental U.S. Data on mortality were extracted six years later from the National Death Index.

The researchers focused on the relationships among functional limitations, volunteering and mortality. Okun said in this case functional limitations are physical and not cognitive, so they more are along the lines of not being able to carry a bag of groceries or not being able to drive a car.

"We found that people with functional limitations are benefitting more from volunteering in terms of longevity than the people who are free of functional limitations," Okun said. "It is also true that people with functional limitations are less likely to volunteer, so it is paradoxical that those who would benefit the most from volunteering, also are less likely to volunteer."

Okun said the researchers controlled for many variables and the relationship between functional limitations, volunteering and mortality remained.

"There appears to be something unique happening in terms of how functional limitations and volunteering work together to influence mortality," Okun said.

While the authors could not identify the mechanism for this effect, Okun did say that it could be that by volunteering older people feel more useful.

"People who have the beginning of a set of functional limitations are the kinds of people who are experiencing some diminished sense of usefulness. We know that a sense of usefulness is a predictor of mortality in older people," Okun explained.

"We are arguing that the experience of functional limitations may be accompanied by an erosion of their sense of 'how can I contribute.' If we give older people with functional limitations a way to restore their sense of usefulness, then we may be able to compensate for, or off set, the effect of functional limitations on mortality. Volunteering may very well provide one of those opportunities."

Demographics are enhancing the importance of this finding, Okun said.

"From a policy point of view, some doomsayers are making catastrophic projections on what will happen as the Boomers age," he said. "But we need to start thinking about the assets they bring with them.

"People who volunteer, particularly those with some health problems, benefit from it," he added. "On the other hand, our society is teeming with social problems that require the involvement of nonprofits and volunteers. This is a win-win situation.

"The Boomers are not going to be envelope lickers," Okun added. "They are looking for something more rewarding than that. We need to think about meaningful ways to engage them as part of the volunteer labor force."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Morris A. Okun, Kristin J. August, Karen S. Rook, Jason T. Newsom. Does volunteering moderate the relation between functional limitations and mortality? Social Science & Medicine, 2010; 71 (9): 1662 DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.034

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Volunteering can benefit those with functional limitations, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101103095121.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2010, November 3). Volunteering can benefit those with functional limitations, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101103095121.htm
Arizona State University. "Volunteering can benefit those with functional limitations, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101103095121.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins