A randomized controlled trial and pragmatic analysis of the effects of volunteering on the health and well-being of older people
Aging Clinical and Experimental Research
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Curtin University of Technology
Background: Volunteering among older people has the potential to deliver health benefits to the individual, along with economic and social benefits to society. However, it is not clear whether healthier people are more likely to engage in volunteering, whether volunteering improves health, or the extent to which the relationship may be reciprocal. There is an identified need for longitudinal work, especially in the form of randomized controlled trials, to establish causality. Aims: To assess the effects of commencing volunteering among older non-volunteers utilizing a randomized controlled trial approach involving per-protocol and pragmatic analyses. Methods: Of the 445 Australians aged 60 + years who participated in the study, 201 were assigned to an intervention arm that required them to participate in a minimum of 1 h/week of formal volunteering in a position of their choice. The remaining participants were assigned to a control condition and asked to continue their lives as usual, but were not discouraged from commencing volunteering. Results: Across the assessed physical, psychological, and social variables, a significant difference in sit-to-stand scores was found in both the per-protocol and pragmatic analyses, and a further significant difference in the fast pace walk was identified in the pragmatic analyses. Conclusion: The results provide some support for policies and programs designed to encourage older people to engage in volunteering to maintain or improve their health. Trial registration: Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12615000091505. © 2019, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.