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Volunteering, health & wellbeing presentation


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We’ve undertaken a critical appraisal of evidence to understand the contribution of volunteering to volunteers’ health and wellbeing

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Volunteering, health & wellbeing presentation

  1. 1. Volunteering, Health & Wellbeing What does the evidence tell us?
  2. 2. Scope…  Setting the scene  The evidence  Implications & next steps
  3. 3. Our approach…. Current perceptions • Volunteering is a ‘good thing’ • Good for beneficiaries and volunteers • Positive health and wellbeing impacts • More = better Is this true? • Critical appraisal of the evidence • Are there benefits? Who benefits. Why do they benefit? How do we maximise benefits? • Are there losers as well as winners? • What about the causality issue?
  4. 4. Analytical framework
  5. 5. The verdict…. Mental health Social isolation & loneliness Physical health Life expectancy Conclusions reached Jury still out Employment & career outcomes Community wellbeing Stronger evidence Weaker evidence
  6. 6. Health benefits Reduced /alleviated: • anxiety & stress • depression • social isolation & loneliness • PTSD & other conditions Mental health Physical health • Healthy behaviours • Functional independ -dence (older age) • Coping with illness Improved life expectancy  ‘Helper’s high’ ? ?
  7. 7. Social isolation & loneliness Contribution of volunteering Social connectedness Getting out of the house Meeting people Making friends Those who benefit most: • Absence of ‘role identities’ • Subject to exclusion in society • Mental ill-health • Low wellbeing
  8. 8. Does age matter? • Too much emphasis on careers & skills • Not enough on subjective wellbeing • Particularly important for building social skills, social capital & confidence • And…combatting mental ill-health and loneliness Young Old • 35 – 44 age group has highest vol. rate = 33% • But evidence of role strain • Lack of evidence on +ve health and wellbeing impacts • Strongest evidence base by far • Especially those retired & subject to ‘role identity absences’ • Reducing social isolation & loneliness • Physical health benefits • The ‘inoculation effect’
  9. 9. Impact on excluded groups? 1.2 million • The most excluded have the most to gain! Evidence: • Mental and physical health conditions • Those subject to social isolation & loneliness • The unemployed • Asylum seekers and refugees • Armed forces veterans • Other beneficiaries likely e.g. those with a disability (for future research)
  10. 10. ‘Facilitators’ affecting H&W • Dose-response effect – frequency and intensity of volunteering  • Motivations – altruism vs. self-interest  • Recognition – thanks, appreciation and recognition  • Volunteer role – nature of volunteer role influencing H&W effects – e.g. type of support provided, responsibilities, etc. ?
  11. 11. Possible adverse impacts • Role strain and stress (multiple roles) • Burnout (no. of hours volunteering) • Physical health (esp. for older volunteers) • Challenging and emotionally demanding roles • Motherhood penalty (& fatherhood penalty??) • Lack of benefit support e.g. for the unemployed Possibility that H&W would improve if they stopped volunteering!
  12. 12. Evidence on ‘burnout’ 1.2 million “Differential benefits of volunteering across the life course” Van Willigen, M. (2000)
  13. 13. Is there a causality problem? • Yes for those studies using cross-sectional data (a case of ‘not proven’) • However, longitudinal studies are more robust methodologically: o They identify positive wellbeing benefits even after modelling for explanatory factors, but scale is often modest o Reverse causation should not be considered a problem • Qualitative evidence focused on those suffering exclusion are much more emphatic in evidencing the contribution of volunteering • The personal experiences of those who have been ‘rescued’ by volunteering are very powerful and convincing.
  14. 14. Implications: policy & practice 1.2 million Focus Implications Stakeholders Policy relevance Health, education, employment, young/old, sport & exercise, social isolation & loneliness, community engagement, etc. ,etc. • Scottish Government • The ‘nationals’ Strategic focus Evidence in support of priorities for volunteering in Scotland: e.g. Participation, Inclusion and Wellbeing • Scottish Volunteering Forum members Volunteer management Guidance for volunteer managers to maximise health and wellbeing benefits • Volunteer Involving Organisations • Training providers Sharing the message Important to address the mis-information about H&W effects of volunteering. An awareness raising campaign would be helpful. • Volunteer Scotland • Key partners Further research Significant evidence gaps which need to be filled: examination of H&W relating to informal volunteering, community wellbeing, youth and mid- life volunteering. • Volunteer Scotland • Academic partners • IVR, etc.
  15. 15. Further information Reports: Volunteering, Health & Wellbeing - Summary Report Volunteering, Health & Wellbeing - Full Report Contact: @VolScot