Benevolence and well-being: The relationship of volunteering to life satisfaction
Grimm, Nelson J
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This study investigated the extent to which participating in benevolent activities, such as volunteering in community organizations, is associated with higher levels of subjective well-being including: life satisfaction, perceived health, and happiness. In addition, the study explored whether the anticipated benefits of volunteering are related to the context of volunteering. That is to say, are the personal benefits of volunteering in secular contexts similar to, or different from, the anticipated personal benefits of volunteering in religious organizations? Furthermore, this research considered the role of spirituality as a potential contributor to volunteer behavior (secular or religious) and its role in understanding prosocial personality and well-being. Participants in the study consisted of volunteers from a hospice organization ( N = 264) and a Christian congregation ( N = 213). Each participant received a survey which included questions pertaining to age, gender, hours spent volunteering, religious activity, perceived happiness, and financial strain. Major constructs of life satisfaction, prosocial personality, and spiritual well-being were assessed using the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985), Prosocial Personality Battery (PSB) (Penner, Fritzsche, Craiger & Freifeld, 1995), and The Spiritual Well Being Scale (SWBS) (Paloutzian & Ellison, 1982). Although those who reported some volunteer activity during the past 12 months reported higher levels of life satisfaction than those who reported no volunteer activity, the increased levels of satisfaction were not significant. Volunteers from the hospice organization reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction than did the volunteers from the congregational sample. Life satisfaction was significantly associated with higher levels of spiritual well-being, and prosocial personality. Levels of life satisfaction were not found to be related to frequency of worship attendance, age, and gender. Higher levels of perceived happiness and general physical well-being did correlate with higher levels of life satisfaction.