Volunteering Makes You Happier, but Why You Volunteer Also Matters: Other-Oriented Motivations and Cumulative Life-Satisfaction

Prior research suggests that volunteering benefits not only the recipient of help, but also the volunteer, who enjoys psychological and health benefits. This study investigates how volunteering and motivation for volunteering is associated with cumulative life-satisfaction among older adults. The results show that volunteering, even volunteering that occurred three decades earlier in one’s life, is associated with cumulative life-satisfaction at retirement age. The results suggest that why people volunteer matters in assessing life-satisfaction. Volunteers who are motivated by a desire to help others enjoy higher life-satisfaction. By contrast, volunteering for self-oriented reasons is either not associated or has a negative association with life-satisfaction.


  • Series: La Follette School Working Paper No. 2017-004
  • Authors: Donald Moynihan, Thomas DeLeire, Kohei Enami

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