Seniors Who Volunteer Outlive Non-Volunteers

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MONDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) — Elderly retirees who volunteer have lower mortality than their cohorts who don’t volunteer, according to a study presented at the 2009 Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Geriatrics Society, held from April 29 to May 2 in Chicago.

Sei J. Lee, M.D., of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues examined 6,360 retired people older than 65 who took part in the 2002 nationwide Health and Retirement Study. Subjects were asked if they had done any volunteer work over the past year for educational, religious, health-related, or other charities. The researchers ascertained deaths in the group by 2006 and then compared the self-reported volunteers and non-volunteers, while adjusting for possible confounding factors, such as demographic differences, geriatric syndromes, chronic conditions, and disabilities.

The researchers concluded that volunteering is strongly associated with lower mortality, with 12 percent of the group of 1,766 self-reported volunteers dying by 2006 compared to 26 percent of the group of 4,594 non-volunteers.

"In this population-based study, we found that volunteering remains a powerful predictor of decreased mortality among current United States’ retirees, even after extensive adjustment for possible confounding factors," the authors write.

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