TEMPE, Ariz. 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
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Arizona State University