Volunteering increases participants’ well-being by providing meaningful roles and developing self-authorship, which is the internal ability to define one’s beliefs and social relationships (Baxter Magolda, 2008). Well-being refers to being healthy and having a positive mindset (Konow & Earley, 2008).
When volunteering, individuals are assigned a role or position that defines the expectations, rights, and obligation of one in that role (Thoits, 2012). A role provides a way to assess whether one is acting meaningfully and allows for the assessment of one’s social position. Understanding one’s role can also help combat negative feelings such as loneliness, social angst, or minor depression (Pizzolato, Nguyen, Johnston, & Wang, 2012).
In the long run, volunteer work increases life satisfaction, happiness, and physical well-being (Konow & Earley, 2008). Compared to other activities, volunteering may have a stronger impact on well-being because a person generally has some initial interest in the activity.
By placing oneself in a role through volunteering, volunteers can better understand their expectations, beliefs, and social relationships and develop self-authorship. Developing self-authorship is necessary to engage others’ opinions and to make complex life choices. The capacity to act on these choices reflects security in thought, which indicates psychological well-being (Creamer, Magolda, & Yue, 2010).
By Assaf Shahar, Clark University, USA
Baxter Magolda, M. B. (2008). Three elements of self-authorship. Journal of College Student Development, 49(4), 269-284.
Creamer, E. G., Magolda, M. B., & Yue, J. (2010). Preliminary evidence of the reliability and validity of a quantitative measure of self-authorship. Journal of College Student Development, 51(5), 550-562.
Konow, J., & Earley, J. (2008). The hedonistic paradox: Is homo-economicus happier? Journal of Public Economics, 92(1-2), 1-33.
Pizzolato, J. E., Nguyen, T. K., Johnston, M. P., & Wang, S. (2012). Understanding context: Cultural, relational, and psychological interactions in self-authorship development. Journal of College Student Development, 53(5), 656-679.
Thoits, P. A. (2012). Role-identity salience, purpose and meaning in life, and well-being among volunteers. Social Psychology Quarterly, 75(4), 360-384.