Date Presented 04/02/2022
This cross-sectional survey study used the RAND 36-Item Short Form Survey and Volunteer Function Inventory to explore relationships between motivations for volunteering and perceived well-being. A majority of participants were health sciences and OT students who had volunteered in the past year. The findings add to volunteerism literature and facilitate the organization of volunteer opportunities with students in OT and health sciences-related programs.
Primary Author and Speaker: Allison Naber
PURPOSE: Current volunteerism literature highlights the link between volunteering and improved perceived physical and psychological well-being among older adults (Anderson et al., 2014; Pettigrew et al., 2019; Yeung et al., 2017). Since volunteering is an occupation driven by motivation, it is worthwhile to explore what motivates students pursuing careers in health care to volunteer and how these motivations are associated with their well-being (Ho et al., 2012). The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between motivations for volunteering and perceived well-being among students in occupational therapy and health sciences-related programs.
DESIGN: An anonymous, exploratory, cross-sectional survey design was employed with participants recruited via email listservs and flyers posted within health sciences program buildings. Participants were included if they were 18 years old or older, enrolled in a health sciences program at a Midwestern university, and fluent in English.
METHOD: A 23-question online survey tool assessed motivations for volunteering and perceived well-being through researcher-generated questions surrounding demographic information and volunteer history, the RAND 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36), and the Volunteer Function Inventory (VFI). Descriptive statistics and Spearman rho correlation was used to compare the results of the researcher-generated questions and two outcome measures to describe the sample and explore relationships between each of the following pairs: well-being and each volunteering type (self-selected and required), social motivation and social functioning well-being, value motivation and social functioning well-being, enhancement motivation and emotional well-being, and protective motivation and emotional well-being.
RESULTS: Most of the 95 participants were health sciences (n = 22) and occupational therapy (n = 20) students. Approximately 75% (n = 72) had volunteered in the past year. RAND SF-36 findings indicated good perceived well-being among many categories. Primary motivations for volunteering included values (Mdn = 30) and understanding (Mdn = 27). Weak positive relationships were found between social motivation and social functioning (rs = 0.198, p = 0.056) and values motivation and social functioning (rs = 0.208, p = 0.046).
CONCLUSIONS: The participants were intrinsically motivated to volunteer, with the greatest motivations for volunteering aligning with the values and understanding functions of the VFI. The participants also had relatively high scores for perceived health as indicated on the RAND SF-36. The survey was not designed to identify any causal relationships between factors and findings are not generalizable, as the response rate was small and lacked diversity. The knowledge surrounding the impact of volunteering on well-being reflects a need for academic programs to carefully consider the goals and values of their student body when establishing volunteer activities. This exploration of volunteering as a meaningful occupation highlights the importance of occupations in one’s health and well-being throughout their educational journey.
IMPACT STATEMENT: These findings fill a gap in volunteerism literature that is heavily focused on older adults and helps to facilitate the organization of volunteer opportunities for students in occupational therapy and health sciences-related programs.
Anderson, N. D., Damianakis, T., Kröger, E., Wagner, L. M., Dawson, D. R., Binns, M. A., Bernstein, S., Caspi, E., Cook, S. L., & The BRAVO Team. (2014). The benefits associated with volunteering among seniors: A critical review and recommendations for future research. Psychological Bulletin, 140(6), 1505-1533. https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/a0037610
Ho, Y. W., You, J., & Fung, H. H. (2012). The moderating role of age in the relationship between volunteering motives and well-being. European Journal of Ageing, 9(4), 319-327. https://doi-org.usd.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10433-012-0245-5
Pettigrew, S., Jongenelis, M. I., Jackson, B., Warburton, J., & Newton, R. U. (2019). A randomized controlled trial and pragmatic analysis of the effects of volunteering on the health and well-being of older people. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40520-019-01241-3
Yeung, J. W. K., Zhang, Z., & Kim, T.Y. (2017). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: Cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health, 17, 1–8. https://doi-org.usd.idm.oclc.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4561-8