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Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK

Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK
Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK
Objectives: The association of volunteering with well-being has been found in previous research, but mostly among older people. The aim of this study was to examine the association of volunteering with mental well-being among the British population across the life course.

Design: British Household Panel Survey, a population-based longitudinal study.

Setting: UK.

Participants: 66 343 observations (person-years).

Main outcome measures: Mental well-being was measured by using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12 or GHQ); high values denote high mental disorder. Four groups of volunteering participation were created: frequent (once a week), infrequent (once a month/several times a year), rare (once or less a year) and never. Multilevel linear models were used to analyse variations in mental well-being over the life course by levels of volunteering.

Results: When not considering age, those who engaged in volunteering regularly appeared to experience higher levels of mental well-being than those who never volunteered. To explore the association of volunteering with the GHQ across the life course, interaction terms were fitted between age and volunteering. The interactions were significant, demonstrating that these associations vary by age. The association between volunteering and well-being did not emerge during early adulthood to mid-adulthood, instead becoming apparent above the age of 40 years and continuing up to old age. Moreover, in early adulthood, the absence of engagement in voluntary activity was not related to mental well-being, but GHQ scores for this group increased sharply with age, levelling off after the age of 40 and then increasing again above the age of 70?years. The study also indicates variation in GHQ scores (65%) within individuals across time, suggesting evidence of lifecourse effects.

Conclusions: We conclude that volunteering may be more meaningful for mental well-being at some points of time in the life course.
e011327-e0113235
Tabassum, Faiza
a4bcd2d6-c576-4e85-8ba4-c3b4bb1ade08
Mohan, John
01d0f96b-aee7-4f4d-ad3f-e177231005f6
Smith, Peter
961a01a3-bf4c-43ca-9599-5be4fd5d3940
Tabassum, Faiza
a4bcd2d6-c576-4e85-8ba4-c3b4bb1ade08
Mohan, John
01d0f96b-aee7-4f4d-ad3f-e177231005f6
Smith, Peter
961a01a3-bf4c-43ca-9599-5be4fd5d3940

Tabassum, Faiza, Mohan, John and Smith, Peter (2016) Association of volunteering with mental well-being: a lifecourse analysis of a national population-based longitudinal study in the UK. BMJ Open, 6 (8), e011327-e0113235. (doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011327).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Objectives: The association of volunteering with well-being has been found in previous research, but mostly among older people. The aim of this study was to examine the association of volunteering with mental well-being among the British population across the life course.

Design: British Household Panel Survey, a population-based longitudinal study.

Setting: UK.

Participants: 66 343 observations (person-years).

Main outcome measures: Mental well-being was measured by using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12 or GHQ); high values denote high mental disorder. Four groups of volunteering participation were created: frequent (once a week), infrequent (once a month/several times a year), rare (once or less a year) and never. Multilevel linear models were used to analyse variations in mental well-being over the life course by levels of volunteering.

Results: When not considering age, those who engaged in volunteering regularly appeared to experience higher levels of mental well-being than those who never volunteered. To explore the association of volunteering with the GHQ across the life course, interaction terms were fitted between age and volunteering. The interactions were significant, demonstrating that these associations vary by age. The association between volunteering and well-being did not emerge during early adulthood to mid-adulthood, instead becoming apparent above the age of 40 years and continuing up to old age. Moreover, in early adulthood, the absence of engagement in voluntary activity was not related to mental well-being, but GHQ scores for this group increased sharply with age, levelling off after the age of 40 and then increasing again above the age of 70?years. The study also indicates variation in GHQ scores (65%) within individuals across time, suggesting evidence of lifecourse effects.

Conclusions: We conclude that volunteering may be more meaningful for mental well-being at some points of time in the life course.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 19 May 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 8 August 2016
Published date: August 2016
Organisations: Statistical Sciences Research Institute, Social Sciences

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 400216
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/400216
PURE UUID: 8b00c608-ce8a-4add-ac0b-ee6f3f5e5788
ORCID for Peter Smith: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4423-5410

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Date deposited: 13 Sep 2016 10:26
Last modified: 28 Oct 2023 01:36

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Contributors

Author: Faiza Tabassum
Author: John Mohan
Author: Peter Smith ORCID iD

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