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The effect of time volunteering and charitable donations in later life on psychological wellbeing

  • NAMKEE G. CHOI (a1) and JINSEOK KIM (a2)

Although accumulated research findings point to both short- and long-term salutary effects of time volunteering on older adults' physical and mental health, little research has been done on the effect of older adults' making charitable donations on their wellbeing. Guided by activity theory and the theory of volunteering and using data from the first and second waves of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS, 1995–1996 and MIDUS II, 2004–2006), this study examined the question of whether time volunteering and charitable donations nine years earlier had a positive direct effect on psychological wellbeing among individuals age 55 and above. Controlling for time 1 (T1) psychological wellbeing and T1 human, cultural, and social capital resources, a moderate amount (up to ten hours monthly) of T1 time volunteering and any amount of T1 charitable donations had a direct positive effect on time 2 (T2; nine years later) psychological wellbeing. The findings also show a greater effect on psychological wellbeing of any amount of charitable donations than of any amount of time volunteering, although the extent of the effect of both time volunteering and charitable donations was small. With regard to human, cultural, and social capital resources, T1 self-rated health and generative quality were significant predictors of T2 psychological wellbeing, but T1 social capital had no significant effect on T2 psychological wellbeing.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Namkee G. Choi, School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, D3500, Austin, TX 78712-0358, USA. E-mail:
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