University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Can volunteering in later life reduce the risk of dementia? A 5-Year longitudinal study among volunteering and non-volunteering retired seniors

To see more of our faculty and students' recent publications, check out our weekly Monday Memo.

Griep, Y.,Magnusson Hanson, L., Vantilborgh, T., Janssens, L., Jones, S. K., & Hyde, M. (2017). Can volunteering in later life reduce the risk of dementia? A 5-Year longitudinal study among volunteering and non-volunteering retired seniors. PlosOne, 12(3), e0173885. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0173885

Abstract

We propose that voluntary work, characterized by social, physical and cognitive activity in later life is associated with fewer cognitive problems and lower dementia rates. We test these assumptions using 3-wave, self-reported, and registry data from the 2010, 2012, and 2014 Swedish National Prescribed Drug Register. We had three groups of seniors in our data: 1) no volunteering (N = 531), 2) discontinuous volunteering (N = 220), and 3) continuous volunteering (N = 250). We conducted a path analysis in Mplus to investigate the effect of voluntary work (discontinuously and continuously) on self-reported cognitive complaints and the likelihood of being prescribed an anti-dementia treatment after controlling for baseline and relevant background variables. Our results indicated that seniors, who continuously volunteered, reported a decrease in their cognitive complaints over time, whereas no such associations were found for the other groups. In addition, they were 2.44 (95%CI [1.86; 3.21]) and 2.46 (95%CI [1,89; 3.24]) times less likely to be prescribed an anti-dementia treatment in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Our results largely support the assumptions that voluntary work in later life is associated with lower self-reported cognitive complaints and a lower risk for dementia, relative to those who do not engage, or only engage episodically in voluntary work.

More information can be found here