Volunteering and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Does Helping Others Get “Under the Skin?”

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Purpose of the Study:

This study investigated whether volunteering was related to 5 risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) among middle-aged and older adults.

Design and Methods:

Data from the 2004 and 2006 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (N = 7,803) were examined. Logistic regression was used to describe the relationships among volunteering and central adiposity, hypertension, lipid dysregulation, elevated blood glucose levels, and high inflammation, along with 2 indexes of the MetS.


Among middle-aged adults, results showed that volunteers were less likely to have high central adiposity, lipid dysregulation, elevated blood glucose levels, and MetS compared with non-volunteers. For older adults, results showed volunteers were less likely to be hypertensive and more likely to have lipid dysregulation than their non-volunteer counterparts.


These results supported findings from other studies that formal volunteering is beneficial for middle-aged adults, and to a lesser degree, older adults. Further research is required to determine what factors may mediate the volunteer–CVD risk relationships.

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