Friendship in Later Life: A Pathway between Volunteering Hours and Depressive Symptoms.

TitleFriendship in Later Life: A Pathway between Volunteering Hours and Depressive Symptoms.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsLim, E, Peng, C, Burr, JA
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology, Series B
ISSN Number1758-5368
KeywordsEmotional Health, Mental Health, pro-social behaviors, social engagement, Social Relationships

OBJECTIVES: Friendships are essential in the face of social network changes in later life and friendships may be important for reducing depression risk. Social participation through volunteering is also associated with fewer depressive symptoms. What is less well-understood is whether friendships serve as a pathway in the link between volunteering and depression.

METHODS: We used panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (2010, 2014, 2018). Negative binomial regression within the SEM modeling framework was employed to analyze the association between volunteering and friendship, focusing on the indirect effect of friendships for understanding the volunteering and depressive symptoms relationship.

RESULTS: Volunteer hours were positively associated with friendship (1-99 hours: β=0.17, p<.001, 100-199 hours: β=0.15, p<.001, 200 hours and more: β=0.23, p<.001) and negatively associated with number of depressive symptoms (1-99 hours: β=-0.07, p=.06, 100-199 hours: β=-0.14, p<.001, 200 hours and more: β=-0.17, p<.001). Friendship mediated the relationship between volunteer hours and depressive symptoms (indirect effects; 1-99 hours: β=-0.01, (95% CI=[-0.02, -0.00], p=.03), 100-199 hours: β=-0.01, (95% CI=[-0.02, -0.00], p=.03), 200 hours and more: β=-0.02, (95% CI=[-0.03, -0.00], p=.03).

DISCUSSION: Our findings underscored the role of volunteering in generating and maintaining friendships, as well as for friendships as a pathway between volunteer hours and depressive symptoms. Providing opportunities to maintain and grow friendships in later life may be a possible intervention strategy for older adults at risk of depression.

Citation Key12785
PubMed ID36242779