Race Differences in the Relationship Between Formal Volunteering and Hypertension

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This study investigated race differences in the relationship between formal volunteering and hypertension prevalence among middle-aged and older adults.


Using data from the 2004 and 2006 Health and Retirement Study (N = 5,666; 677 African Americans and 4,989 whites), we examined regression models stratified by race to estimate relationships among hypertension prevalence, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and volunteer status and hours spent volunteering among persons aged 51 years old and older.


White volunteers had a lower risk of hypertension than white nonvolunteers. A threshold effect was also present; compared with nonvolunteers, volunteering a moderate number of hours was associated with lowest risk of hypertension for whites. Results for hypertension were consistent with results from alternative models of systolic and diastolic blood pressure. We found no statistically significant relationship between volunteering activity and hypertension/blood pressure for African Americans.


There may be unmeasured cultural differences related to the meaning of volunteering and contextual differences in volunteering that account for the race differences we observed. Research is needed to determine the pathways through which volunteering is related to hypertension risk and that may help explain race differences identified here.

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