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Seniors Who Volunteer May Live Longer
Date:5/8/2009

population is considered representative of older adults in the United States. The average age in the study was 78, and the study population was 60 percent female.

Whether or not the study participants volunteered was assessed by asking, "Have you spent any time in the past 12 months doing volunteer work for religious, educational, health-related or other charitable organizations?"

The researchers controlled the data to account for demographics, socioeconomic status, chronic health conditions, geriatric syndromes, functional limitations, a subject's propensity for volunteering, depression, cognition and self-rated health.

In this initial assessment, the researchers found that 12 percent of the 1,766 volunteers in the study died compared to 26 percent of the non-volunteers. After adjusting the data, the researchers said the association between volunteering and a lower risk of mortality wasn't as strong, but that it still existed.

Lee said that although they didn't study the reasons for the apparent benefit of volunteering, other researchers have, and that several factors likely play a role. One may be that volunteers have a better social network, which has been associated with lower mortality. He said that volunteering also seems to be associated with "self-efficacy" or a belief in your own abilities to accomplish certain tasks. "Staying healthy requires doing different things like quitting smoking or losing weight," explained Lee, and people who have higher self-efficacy may believe themselves more capable of accomplishing those tasks.

"This is another component of a long line of work that suggests you want to remain engaged in life, and be active in as many domains as possible. Be physically active, mentally active and socially active. These are really important for staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible," said Lee.

"People who are socially engaged will have a better quality of life a
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