Well-being and volunteering: Evidence from aging societies in Asia

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This study examines whether and how volunteering is associated with the well-being of older people in rapidly aging Asian societies; this topic has received remarkably little attention in the literature. Based on the severity of their population aging problem, five Asian societies are selected for an empirical study, namely Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. We conduct analysis of the latest World Values Survey data set collected from 2011 to 2012 and the effect of volunteering on four aspects of well-being, namely self-reported life satisfaction, happiness, health, and life mastery. Given the ordinal nature of well-being, we establish ordered probit models that focus on voluntary work type, volunteer age, and the level of immersion in volunteer work. The findings indicate a significant positive relationship between active volunteering and well-being, which is valid for all well-being aspects. Active volunteering may have a more significant effect on well-being than inactive volunteering. Age is also a relevant factor affecting volunteering effect. No significant volunteering benefits are found for people younger than 54 years old. Voluntary work in charitable, humanitarian, and religious organizations is the most closely associated with higher well-being for relatively younger people. For people aged 65 and above, volunteering in self-help and cultural organizations is also associated with higher well-being. Moreover, immersion in volunteer work is crucial, particularly for retired people and people aged more than 65 in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. The results suggest people should be encouraged to engage in longer hours (or longer duration)of voluntary service. This study identifies the types of volunteer work that most effectively enhance the well-being of older people, which might help older adults transition to retirement and age with higher well-being and help aging societies alleviate their labor shortage problems by involving productive older people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-180
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - May 2019


  • Aging society
  • Asia
  • Happiness
  • I31
  • J17
  • J26
  • Labor utilization
  • Productive aging
  • Volunteering
  • Well-being


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