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Doing well by doing good. The relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported health and happiness

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  • Borgonovi, Francesca
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    Abstract

    In this paper, we examine whether engaging in voluntary work leads to greater well-being, as measured by self-reported health and happiness. Drawing on data from the USA, our estimates suggest that people who volunteer report better health and greater happiness than people who do not, a relationship that is not driven by socio-economic differences between volunteers and non-volunteers. We concentrate on voluntary labor for religious groups and organizations and using second stage least square regressions we find that religious volunteering has a positive, causal influence on self-reported happiness but not on self-reported health. We explore reasons that could account for the observed causal effect of volunteering on happiness. Findings indicate that low relative socio-economic status is associated with poor health both among those who volunteer and those who do not. Low status, however, is associated with unhappy states only among those who do not volunteer, while volunteers are equally likely to be happy whether they have high or low status. We propose that volunteering might contribute to happiness levels by increasing empathic emotions, shifting aspirations and by moving the salient reference group in subjective evaluations of relative positions from the relatively better-off to the relatively worse-off.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 66 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 11 (June)
    Pages: 2321-2334

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:66:y:2008:i:11:p:2321-2334

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    Related research

    Keywords: Volunteering Health Happiness Well-being Causality Status USA;

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    Cited by:
    1. Fiorillo, D; & Sabatini, F;, 2011. "Quality and quantity: the role of social interactions in individual health," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York 11/04, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. Vasoontara Yiengprugsawan & Boonchai Somboonsook & Sam-ang Seubsman & Adrian Sleigh, 2012. "Happiness, Mental Health, and Socio-Demographic Associations Among a National Cohort of Thai Adults," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(6), pages 1019-1029, December.
    3. Fiorillo, D.; & Nappo, N.;, 2014. "Formal and informal volunteering and health across European countries," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York 14/05, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Binder, Martin & Freytag, Andreas, 2013. "Volunteering, subjective well-being and public policy," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 97-119.
    5. Maria Pavlova & Rainer Silbereisen & Kamil Sijko, 2014. "Social Participation in Poland: Links to Emotional Well-Being and Risky Alcohol Consumption," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 117(1), pages 29-44, May.
    6. Pfeffer, Jeffrey & DeVoe, Sanford E., 2012. "The Economic Evaluation of Time Organizational Causes and Individual Consequences," Research Papers 2123, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    7. Fiorillo, Damiano & Nappo, Nunzia, 2011. "Job satisfaction in Italy: individual characteristics and social relations," MPRA Paper 31133, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Hilke Brockmann, 2009. "Why Are Middle-Aged People so Depressed?: Evidence from West Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 233, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    9. Lindsey McDougle & Femida Handy & Sara Konrath & Marlene Walk, 2014. "Health Outcomes and Volunteering: The Moderating Role of Religiosity," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 117(2), pages 337-351, June.
    10. Aaker, Jennifer L. & Rudd, Melanie & Mogilner, Cassie, 2010. "If Money Doesn't Make You Happy, Consider Time," Research Papers 2067, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    11. Hilke Brockmann, 2010. "Why are Middle-Aged People so Depressed? Evidence from West Germany," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 23-42, May.
    12. Damiano Fiorillo & Fabio Sabatini, 2011. "Structural social capital and health in Italy," Discussion Papers 8_2011, D.E.S. (Department of Economic Studies), University of Naples "Parthenope", Italy.
    13. Emmanouil Mentzakis & Paul McNamee & Mandy Ryan & Matthew Sutton, 2012. "Valuing Informal Care Experience: Does Choice of Measure Matter?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 108(1), pages 169-184, August.
    14. Fiorillo, Damiano & Sabatini, Fabio, 2011. "Quality and quantity: The role of social interactions in self-reported individual health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 73(11), pages 1644-1652.

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