Informal helping and subsequent health and well-being in older U.S. adults

TitleInformal helping and subsequent health and well-being in older U.S. adults
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsNakamura, JSharon
UniversityUniversity of British Columbia
Keywordshealth, informal helping, Well-being

While there is a large and growing body of evidence around the health and well-being benefits of formal volunteering, less is known about the downstream benefits of informal helping behaviors. A small literature has evaluated associations between informal helping and health and well-being outcomes. However, epidemiological studies have not evaluated if changes in informal helping are associated with subsequent health and well-being. Using data from 12,998 participants in the Health and Retirement Study, a national cohort of US adults aged >50, we evaluated if changes in informal helping (between t0;2006/2008 and t1;2010/2012) were associated with 35 indicators of physical, behavioral, and psychosocial health and well-being (at t2;2014/2016). Over the four-year follow-up period, informal helping >=100 (versus 0) hours/year was associated with a 32% lower mortality risk (95% CI [0.54, 0.86]), and improved physical health (e.g., 21% reduced risk of stroke (95% CI [0.64, 0.96])), health behaviors (e.g., 11% increased physical activity (95% CI [1.04, 1.19])), and psychosocial outcomes (e.g., higher purpose in life (β=0.13, 95% CI [0.08, 0.18])). However, there was also evidence that informal helping was associated with higher negative affect (β=0.06, 95% CI [0.003, 0.12]) and little evidence of associations with various other outcomes. In secondary analyses, we adjusted for formal volunteering and caregiving and results were largely unchanged. Encouraging informal helping may improve various aspects of health and well-being and also promote societal well-being.

Citation KeyNakamura_2022