Does volunteering moderate the relation between functional limitations and mortality?

Morris A. Okun, Kristin J. August, Karen S. Rook, Jason T. Newsom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Previous studies have demonstrated that functional limitations increase, and organizational volunteering decreases, the risk of mortality in later life. However, scant attention has been paid to investigating the joint effect of functional limitations and organizational volunteering on mortality. Accordingly, we tested the hypothesis that volunteering moderates the relation between functional limitations and risk of mortality. This prospective study used baseline survey data from a representative sample of 916 non-institutionalized adults 65 years old and older who lived in the continental United States. Data on mortality were extracted six years later from the National Death Index. Survival analyses revealed that functional limitations were associated with an increased risk of dying only among participants who never or almost never volunteered, suggesting that volunteering buffers the association between functional limitations and mortality. We conclude that although it may be more difficult for older adults with functional limitations to volunteer, they may receive important benefits from doing so.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1662-1668
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Functional limitations
  • Mortality
  • Older people
  • USA
  • Volunteering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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