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Volunteerism and Health: The Conditioning Role of Social Networks

Mon, August 13, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Level 100, 113A

Abstract

Objectives: In this study we investigate the link between volunteering and health and the role of social networks. Specifically, we focus on two research questions: 1) does the volunteering-health link vary by level of volunteering; and 2) does social network change moderate this link. Methods: Data (N= 543) come from the longitudinal Social Relations and Health over the Life Course Study. Linear regression analyses were conducted to test main and interactive effect of volunteerism and social networks on self-rated health and depressive symptoms. Results: Volunteering at a low (1 to 100 hours/year) level was associated with better self-health, compared to those who reported no volunteering. In contrast, volunteering at a moderate (101-300 hours) level was associated with reports of fewer depressive symptoms, compared to those not volunteering. In terms of the moderating role of social network change, an amplification effect of a bridging dimension of social networks on the volunteer-health link was found. Moderate levels of volunteering were found to benefit individuals who reported an increase in the proportion of family in their network. Discussion: The influence of volunteering on health incurs another level of complexity when the context of social capital, as indicated by networks characteristics is considered. The interactive effects of volunteerism and social networks are discussed to elucidate those factors that facilitate the benefits of volunteering.

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