Volunteering: Demographic characteristics, motives and potential benefits from service

Vidya Ayyr, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Volunteering is intricately woven into the fabric of our society. In 2009 alone, approximately 63.4 million Americans participated in volunteer activities, collectively donating over 8.1 billion service-hours (Corporation for National and Community Service [CNCS], 2010). Each service-hour is determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010) to be valued at $20.85/hr which translates to a national savings of $169 billion. Thus, we can clearly observe the significance of volunteer contribution to the overall benefit of society. In addition, there is now evidence that voluntary service may also benefit the actual volunteer, especially individuals who are 65+ years. As we reach 2020 this elderly class, composed of nearly 13 million (CNCS, 2010) Americans, will be of much consequence. Their potential to contribute in community-related efforts may save the U.S. billions in labor costs, and may also help reduce healthcare-related expenditures if volunteering proves to be a protective factor. In this literature review, we set out to explore the potential relationship between volunteer participation and increased mental and physical wellness. We also examined volunteer demographic characteristics and common motives for engaging in service-related activities. Analysis showed that volunteer work often combined low-impact physical activity and mental satisfaction from serving others, resulting in overall health benefit. Demographic characteristics displayed were consistent with previous studies and found that a majority of volunteers were female, White, married status, having received college degree or higher, employed, middle-high SES. In addition, age was seen to be a key characteristic in forecasting volunteer motivation and self-reported perceived health benefits.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Ayyr, Vidya, "Volunteering: Demographic characteristics, motives and potential benefits from service" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1497686.